Saturday 3 November 2012

Movie Review: Smokin' Aces (2006)

A loud misfire, Smokin' Aces takes aim at a hip Tarantino-style criminal blood fest but never finds the right groove. The outcome is mess of a film, characters tripping and sliding on a floor made slick by buckets of misplaced gore.

Buddy "Aces" Israel (Jeremy Piven) is a coke snorting entertainer turned mafia lord about to strike a deal to testify against Primo Sparazza (Joseph Ruskin), an elderly and ailing mob boss. From wire taps, FBI agents Messner (Ryan Reynolds) and Carruthers (Ray Liotta) and their commander Locke (Andy Garcia) infer that Sparazza has placed a $1 million bounty on Buddy's head. The FBI have a long-standing history with Sparazza, having decades earlier sent Agent Freeman Heller to infiltrate his organization. Heller did not get very far and was killed by Sparazza.

With Sparazza now offering a large reward for killing Buddy, the world's most notorious assassin squads descend on Lake Tahoe, where Buddy is hiding out in a hotel penthouse suite. Meanwhile, attorney Ripley Reed (Jason Bateman) hires three bail bondsmen, including Jack Dupree (Ben Affleck) to nab Buddy before he jumps bail and Reed's firm lose the bail money. But Dupree and his crew just get in the way of the bounty-seeking assassins, including the duo of Georgia Sykes (Alicia Keys) and Sharice Watters (Taraji P. Henson); master of disguise Lazlo Soot; torture specialist Pasquale Acosta; and a simply insane, chainsaw-wielding trio known as the Tremor Brothers. As Messner and Carruthers race to beef up Buddy's security, the wild assortment of killers attempt to infiltrate the hotel, tangling with each other and Buddy's bodyguards.

Director and writer Joe Carnahan over complicates his story, erring far to the side of quantity over quality, barely allowing any of the characters to register before the bullets start flying and the blood gushing. Piven gets the most screen time as Buddy Israel, but his character is intensely unlikeable. Whether Buddy lives or dies is therefore of little consequence, and if forced to choose, few would lament his death. Smokin' Aces then simply becomes one large pulverization job, faceless killers killing each other while Agents Messner and Carruthers try to stay alive to sort out the bad guys from the worse guys.

There are a few over-the-top stylistic touches that do work. The introduction of the Tremor Brothers to the tune of Motorhead's Ace Of Spades, the wall-penetrating high powered sniper rifle deployed by Sharice, and the elevator gun fight between Acosta and Carruthers are all satisfyingly insane.

There is a twist at the end, but it is all quite rushed and introduced too late to rescue Smokin' Aces from self-inflicted wounds. When a surplus of particles are injected with an overload of kinetic energy, the collisions are predictable to the point of meaningless overkill.

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