Sabbath Reviews: Smokin’ Aces (2006)


Directed & Written by: Joe Carnahan

Smokin’ Aces is a film I’ve passed up time and time again. I can remember hearing it mentioned once in a while, but it didn’t really generate the kind of buzz to make me want to put it at the top of my To-Do list. In fact, the only reason I decided to put it at the top of my Netflix queue is because I had no idea what I wanted to watch and I decided to let fate decide for me. Aces arrived, I popped it in, and this review is the result.

The first thing to know about Smokin’ Aces is that it has a lot of names in it. Ryan Reynolds, Jeremy Piven, Ray Liotta, Ben Affleck, Common, Alicia Keys, Andy Garcia … and the list goes on. Not all of those names are particularly top-rated stars and some I only mentioned due to their lack of acting experience (Keys). I groaned when I saw Reynolds name because unlike the majority of the population, I am not a Ryan Reynolds fan. Part of it is personal. I’m tired of every girl I meet having a huge boner for him, which is something that I don’t mind dealing with when it comes to Johnny Depp. Depp just rules. I can’t be jealous of the guy. Reynolds on the other hand often plays himself, which makes me worry about the upcoming Green Lantern movie. As a superhero film geek I’m also just tired of him being suggested to play every fucking comic book hero ever. There’s a ton of names in Hollywood to go around and yet he gets put at the top of everybody’s dream list to play everyone from The Flash (makes sense) to Thor (eat a dick). It’s annoying.

I’m not a complete dick though. I’ll give credit where credit is due. He actually did his job and acted as someone other than himself in this movie. Kudos. Reynolds plays FBI Agent Richard Messner who, along with his partner, has found out that Las Vegas act and psuedo-gangster Buddy “Aces” Israel has a hit on him and the contract’s been shopped around to several people. Reynolds’ job is to take Buddy into custody once a deal has been reached with the bureau, because Piven (who plays Buddy), is a weasel and a sell-out. I’m not up on my Jeremy Piven, but I hear he’s generally a dick in movies. No different here. He’s holed up in a hotel room with his men and a lot of security. He does a lot of coke, treats the hookers like shit, verbally abuses his people and does just about everything to make himself out to be an unlikable schmuck.

The real plot lies in the fact that all the chess pieces are on the table and they’re moving forward to put the King in checkmate. The King in this shitty analogy is the aforementioned Buddy Israel. Each of these people, or groups of people, have their own unique identity and background ranging from bail bondsman Jack Dupree (Ben Affleck) to crazy neo-nazi white boys (featuring Chris Pine) to a couple of black hitgirls with some serious firepower (Alicia Keys is in this group) and more. That’s where the real entertainment comes from, watching all of these groups converge on the same target each with their own methods. It’s like watching the heist in Ocean’s Eleven, or Mission Impossible … all these people acting independently and yet moving towards the same goal.

I’ll have to stop and give the movie credit for something. SPOILERS here: One of the names gets killed off fairly early in the movie as a psych out. I enjoy when movies do that. Too often you can tell who the survivors are just by the casting alone. I won’t say who, but given that you know it’s going to happen, I’ve spoiled enough for you.

The result of these people converging on Aces is a symphony of blood and lead. When the chips are down and all the players are in position, that’s when this movie starts to shine. The assassins kill each other off, people drop like flies, and Aces can no longer hide what a weasel he is from his own men — adding more potential killers to the fray late in the game. I have to say the pay off was impressive.

Not only was the action well worth it, but the story takes a few twists near the end too just to try and separate it from a popcorn flick. Some of the stuff I had halfway figured out already so it wasn’t a real shock, but I appreciated the attempt.

Smokin’ Aces isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a lot of fun. One of my complaints happened to be with the cinematography … the color scheme was just annoying. I’ve seen artsy photographs that have been tweaked in Photoshop to have the same effect. An effect that’s hard to describe unless it’s seen … but the colors are just really vibrant, like a waterpainting. It looks nice on stills but to watch a whole movie like it was kind of annoying, especially exterior scenes. The interior scenes are more forgiving and less abusive of the style.

If you’ve been holding off like me, I’d say give it a shot. Even Alicia Keys and Common didn’t do a bad job. Don’t expect a masterpiece, but do expect an entertaining conclusion.

— Sabbath

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5 Responses to “Sabbath Reviews: Smokin’ Aces (2006)”

  1. chainsawcheerleader Says:

    I also put off watching Smokin’ Aces. I think mainly because of the actors in it. I only really watched it because my brother suggested it. The best part was indeed the assassins, their different personalities, and how they went after their target. I honestly cannot really remember much other then the assassins and Jeremy Piven acting like a coked up dick.

    I really don’t understand the appeal of Ryan Reynolds. He’s alright looking and his acting is okay, I guess. He kind of bugs me actually. I have no idea why everyone wants him to play every superhero or why he was voted sexist man a live by People. Hollywood and some of its audience feel like five year olds with ADHA. Anything pretty and shiny distracts them. Reynolds is pretty and shiny.

    Great review.

  2. I agree with you for the most part, but have a major disagreement on the ending. The ending is not only utterly retarded, and part of the Hollywood tidal wave of having the lame and unnecessary twist ending, it hinges on the performance of Ryan Reynolds to make it work. That’s not a good thing, because it’s one most horribly acted scenes that I’ve ever seen in my life.

    I do agree that it has some great action scenes and most of the rest of the cast is great, notably Chris Pine, Martin Henderson and esepecially Jason Bateman. Bateman’s one scene is as stand-out in this film as Alec Baldwin’s one scene in Glengarry Glenn Ross was. Even Alicia Keyes is pretty great in this and Matthew Fox’s cameo is awesome.

    If the ending had worked, the good bits and pieces in this might have made up for the weak spots and the overall shitty story, but that ending sinks this bloated bitch like an iceberg kissing the Titanic.

  3. I agree with the review for the most part. I’m also with Tick on the unnecessary twist ending. I’m not on the Ryan Reynolds hate train, but I’m not a fan either. I’m indifferent to him. To me, the one liners he gets in most scripts seem forced in there, simply because they were “lucky” to cast Ryan Reynolds.

    My beef with this flick is it’s such a departure from Narc. I liked Narc a lot and I expected more of that gritty feel to make it’s way into Carnahan’s follow up and we got.. this. There’s nothing wrong with the assault-all-senses style of this flick. It’s just not what I was expecting. There were a few of these ensemble type crime movies released within a few months of each other. During this time period, I liked Lucky Number Slevin a lot more.

    While I’m on it, the straight to video sequel to Smokin’ Aces is absolute garbage. It makes this one look like Pulp Fiction in comparison.

  4. I don’t really disagree with either of you on the twist ending. I appreciated the attempt, but do agree it fell short and was mostly predictable to begin with. The conclusion I really spoke of was the big clusterfuck in the hotel. That’s where the movie really concluded for me. After that, I felt it was just an attempt to make it not a popcorn flick. They tried. Didn’t succeed really, but they tried.

  5. Save to say the surprise death of the big name was nice but overall I didnt care much for this one. Like the review though.

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