Smokin’ Aces is filled with cartoonish characters and clips. Like most any modern cartoon, it’s colourful and filled with outlandish stunts. It’s flashy and feels hip, but I wonder if it’s all just a smokescreen much like the one in the film’s plot.
Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jeremy Piven) has a million-dollar price on his head. The one-time mobster darling and Vegas magician turned snitch. The mob wants him dead and there’s plenty of parties willing to put the magic bullet between his eyes. The cops want him alive so he can testify in a high-profile case. All sides converge at a mountain hotel as Israel’s secret location is leaked.
Contained primarily to the hotel and the nearby areas, writer/director Joe Carnahan (Narc) does a good job of keeping the limited sets feel fresh. Like everything else in the film, the background props and extras are big and over-the-top, even if there’s no real reason for it other than to be big and over-the-top.
The wide variety of rogues and bounty hunters offer the biggest insight into the film. They really do belong in an old Tom and Jerry cartoon made on crack. They’re wild, crazy, make strange noises and carry big weapons.
At times I had a hard time getting my head around who’s sided with whom and who’s double-crossing whom. For such a simplistic plot, it’s almost as though Carnahan purposely made it more complicated than it needed to be. I like a well thought out plot twist, but here the build towards it is so obvious. Although the ultimate revelation is somewhat clever and foreshadowed throughout, because you know something is bound to be coming it’s not so much a surprise as it is an unexpected knock at your front door from your neighbour wanting to borrow the lawnmower.
Had there been a better story to go with all the visuals and action mayhem, Smokin’ Aces would have been a great film. However, the plot is limited to throwing together different combinations of hit men and cops, a fight of some sort and plot twists a plenty. Ultimately Smokin’ Aces feels like a gimmick movie. Its shtick is all about style and mayhem. Once that’s established at about the 30-minute mark there’s not much else to grab onto. Don’t get me wrong, the film looks good and carries a strong sense of attitude but there’s just too little to really hold onto.
Smokin’ Aces DVD Review
Despite being a so-so film, Smokin’ Aces has a solid DVD to go with it. The film is shown with a sharp anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1 aspect ratio) format. Sound is in a blistering Dolby 5.1 Surround with optional subtitles in English, French and Spanish. As far as extras go, they’re led by two commentary tracks. The first with writer/director Joe Carnahan and editor Robert Frazen is light, conversational and filled with beer consumption. Carnahan returns for the second along with cast members Common, Christopher Holley and Zach Cumer. Even more conversational and lighter than the first, this one is largely cast and crew praising whereas the first went deeper into the film and the filmmaking process. Four deleted and extended scenes total 10 minutes while there’s nearly an equal amount of time dedicated to outtakes. The alternate ending is interesting and flashy, but ultimately less dramatic than the one that made the final cut. “The Line-Up” is a series of five short featurettes that highlight the main players in the film. “The Big Gun” thrusts the spotlight on Carnahan. He’s frank and honest in giving a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film and how it came about. Cast and crew interviews construct “Shoot ‘Em Up: Stunts & Effects”, a look at the film’s action bits.
Smokin’ Aces Gallery
Smokin’ Aces Trailer