Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary By Writer/Director Joe Carnahan And Editor Robert Frazen; Deleted And Extended Scenes; ‘Cowboy’ Ending; Outtakes; Shoot ‘Em Up: Stunts And Effects – Featurette; The Big Gun; The Line-Up; Hot Fuzz International Trailer.
HAVING tipped his hat to the gritty ’70s cop genre with his debut movie Narc, director Joe Carnahan now takes a shot at the films of Quentin Tarantino, Tony Scott and Guy Ritchie with his belated follow-up, Smokin’ Aces.
The result is a wild and frequently messy ride that proves an absolute blast for anyone willing to go with the flow.
It features a cracking ensemble cast, some utterly bonkers action and plenty of sly in-jokes/nods to other films in the genre.
Buddy ‘Aces’ Israel (Jeremy Piven) is a sleazy Las Vegas magician with Mob connections who has decided to turn informant.
It’s up to two FBI agents (Ryan Reynolds and Ray Liotta) to bring him in before he’s turned into swiss cheese by any of the assassins on his trail.
Matters converge at a swish Lake Tahoe hotel…
In truth, there’s not much about Smokin’ Aces that hasn’t been done before. The eccentric characters are as foul-mouthed, philosophical or quick talking as countless Tarantino/Ritchie creations, while the stylized action borrows heavily from Scott’s True Romance and Domino.
Some scenarios and characters are just so insane that they even disrupt the flow of proceedings, such as the trio of unhinged brothers or the karate kid who taunts a wounded bail bondsman.
But while there are undoubtedly some duff hands among Carnahan’s pack of cards, there are also some aces.
Ryan Reynolds in particular stands out as one of the FBI agents, providing the type of performance that hints at a wonderful new career direction for him.
While singer-turned-actress Alicia Keys impresses in her big screen debut, suggesting that Carnahan knows how to handle a musician or two (witness Busta Rhymes in Narc).
Ben Affleck builds on the good work he did in Hollywoodland as a smooth-talking bail bondsman and it’s good to see Jeremy Piven getting a role worthy of his talents off the back of the success of TV’s Entourage.
There’s also reliable support from Liotta, Andy Garcia (as an FBI boss) and Taraji P Henson as a gun crazy lesbian hit-woman.
The set pieces, too, provide a fair quota of thrills, especially when entering utterly demented territory, and the moody finale caps things off nicely by giving rise to one of the best confrontations in the movie.
So, if you’re prepared to gamble on Carnahan’s mad, bad and utterly violent world, then Smokin’ Aces should leave you feeling suitably flush.
Running time: 110mins