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  Publicity Stills of "Smokin' Aces"
(Courtesy from UIP)

Genre: Crime/Action
Director: Joe Carnahan
Starring: Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Alicia Keys, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds, Peter Berg, Martin Henderson, Taraji Henson
RunTime: 1 hr 48 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: M18
Official Website: http://www.smokinaces.net

Release Date: 12 April 2007

Synopsis :

In these interlocking tales of high stakes and low lifes, Mob boss Primo Sparazza has taken out a hefty contract on Buddy "Aces" Israel (Jeremy Piven)--a sleazy magician who has agreed to turn state's evidence against the Vegas mob. When word of the price on Aces' head spreads into the community of ex-cons and cons-to-be, it entices bounty hunters, thugs-for-hire, smokin' hot vixens and double-crossing mobsters to join in the hunt. With all eyes on Tahoe, this rogues' gallery collides in a comic race to hit the jackpot and rub out Aces.

Movie Review:

One thing is for sure. A great deal of empty shells and blood is spilled in “Smokin’ Aces”. It is a violently ambitious, heedlessly underplotted affair - the sort with reckless mayhem waiting at every turn but just not enough ingenuity to pull it all together. Ultimately, it’s yet another post-Tarantino shoot 'em up tempered with an unyielding fascination in finding the slickest, most innovative way to make skull shots look more interesting than they inherently are, you know, just because they’ve apparently already started to become dull to the masses.

Joe Carnahan’s reputation as a rising star and a gritty showman in the genre was solidified after 2002’s “Narc”, a cop thriller that was as grim as they could possibly come. Still gainfully employed after abruptly deserting “Mission: Impossible III” weeks before its production, he now sticks his oar into a veritable abattoir of offbeat hitmen, hookers and FBI agents. With a compulsion for violence so strong that it must cause some form of whiplash, “Smokin’ Aces” has a flair for ruthlessness that just plain underwhelms. Despite being a showcase for bankrupt masculine values, it just does not push the limit as far it could have especially when its prototypes have been far more unhinged and far more deliciously over the top. So much so that what could have been just another bird-brained, but amusing exercise in brutal pandemonium fails on even the most superficial level.

The marquee seems overloaded with marginally recognisable talents that it all but promises a spectacle – not always a good thing. So chock full of stars that its peripheral roles are inhabited by the likes of Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia and Matthew Fox, it does show its hand too early and never really delivers on its characters’ potential to actually entertain. The only one who shows even an iota of actually having a character arc is Ryan Reynolds’s Agent Messner, who, together with partner Carruthers (Ray Liotta) are caught in the middle of protecting sleazy mob snitch, magician Buddy "Aces" Israel (Jeremy Piven, cashing in on his “Entourage” stint by carbon copying himself into another jaded, foul-mouthed showbiz scum). More than just another routine surveillance job, hordes of hitmen (and women) descend onto placid Lake Tahoe’s casinos to claim their reward.

When the plot is the one aspect that seems to be an obligation instead of a foundation, there’s no doubting that the film would run into trouble sooner rather than later. It’s all well and good to introduce the hired guns in succession, without stopping to take a breath, I might add but it becomes overkill when you know (and you wouldn’t be remotely interested in this if you didn’t) that these are dead men walking. The affectations of Jason Bateman’s manic, coked-up cross-dressing notwithstanding, “Smokin’ Aces” lacks a sophisticated cleverness in its non-narrative and an underlying adrenaline rush in its shallow gunplay. But what’s even shallower is the condescending belief that bloodletting is all that’s needed for a good time.

Movie Rating:

(Mindless and derivative)

Review by Justin Deimen

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