*** (out of 5)
January 26, 2007
Jeremy Piven as BUDDY “ACES” ISRAEL
Ryan Reynolds as RICHARD MESSNER
Ben Affleck as JACK DUPREE
Jason Bateman as RIP REED
Common as SIR IVY
Joseph Ruskin as PRIMO SPARAZZA
Andy Garcia as STANLEY LOCKE
Alex Rocco as SERNA
Alicia Keys as GEORGIA SYKES
Ray Liotta as DONALD CARRUTHERS
Martin Henderson as HOLLIS ELMORE
Directed by: Joe Carnahan
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I have to admit that I have not yet seen “Narc,” although I hear it’s great. Joe Carnahan’s follow-up is “Smokin’ Aces,” and the fans have been waiting with baited breath. But the question on everyone’s mind is whether Carnahan’s new film has lived up to the anticipation. It probably won’t completely do this for the fans out there, but it still ain’t a bad film. At the very least, “Smokin’ Aces” is one of the best new films of 2007 to be released in January.
The film centers around a mob hit gone horribly wrong. Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jeremy Piven) is a successful Vegas night club magician who has turned on the last remnants of the Mafia. With the snitch on the run, the mob has put out a $1 million price on his head. As the FBI tries to snatch up the snitch for themselves, a half dozen contract killers come out of the woodwork to claim the bounty. So everyone’s out with the goal of smokin’ Aces. Smokin’ Aces… get it? (I confess that I did have a good laugh at this pun.)
The cast is made up of a solid slate of B-listers (e.g., Jeremy Piven and Martin Henderson), a handful of A-listers that have fallen from grace (e.g., Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia and Ryan Reynolds) and a few C-listers (e.g., Peter Berg and Alex Rocco). Ray Liotta rounds out the familiar faces to back Carnahan’s newest film.
There’s also some new faces from the music world, including Common as one of Aces’ bodyguards and Alicia Keys as one of the assassins. While Common is no great shakes, Keys does a fine job looking fine. She’s dressed as a prostitute in hot pants and fishnets through much of the film, so that did get my attention.
Still, with all the over-the-top performances, I have to say that one of my favorite bit part in the movie belonged to Matthew Fox of “Lost” fame. While I pretty much hated his performance in “We Are Marshall,” his comedic yet sympathetic turn as a hotel security officer made me chuckle. However, even better than Fox was Jason Bateman as a herpes-infected, porn addicted, cross-dressing lawyer.
“Smokin’ Aces” isn’t going to redefine anything in cinema. It’s not a great film, but it can be fun if you know what you’re getting into. It’s directed much like a music video, but it’s got more substance than just the latest flashy fluff you’re likely to see in a music video director’s debut.
The key to enjoying “Smokin’ Aces” is to not take it too seriously. Admittedly, the film does take itself too seriously at times – especially near the end when the plot warps too much into a cheesy spy film, but I got past that. There’s enough blood, bullets, boobs, action and octane to keep cheap bags of testosterone like myself interested.