Monday, January 29, 2007

Smokin' Aces

Title: Smokin' Aces (2007)
Dir: Joe Carnahan
Rating:**1/2 out of 5 stars

Despite Ben Affleck and my better judgement, I decided to see Smokin' Aces. I hoped it might be a cheap, enjoyable successor to Guy Ritchie's crime capers, but instead I saw a loud, convoluted, sometimes quirky but mostly stupid shoot-em-up.

When the mafia puts a contract on the head of Vegas magician (and wannabe gangster) Buddy "Aces" Israel (Jeremy Piven), a plethora of hitmen come out of the woodwork to collect. Joining the melee are two tough black chicks, a trio of insane neo-Nazis, and a master of disguses. Meanwhile, two FBI agents (Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta) attempt to protect Israel and bring down his mob associates.

So here is yet another film trying WAY too hard to be cool. Firstly, the movie has far too much going on at once. Films like Snatch made that work, but this one can't. There are way too many characters, and their stories are poorly connected together. Martin Henderson's character has a particularly worthless sidestory, wherein he gets shot and hides out in a trailer park. And suddenly the writing veers into what I can only assume is a criticism of Ritalin? I don't know.

Secondly, the director gets Tony Scott syndrome. Attention filmmakers: color filters and shutter speed alone do not make a movie! I enjoy the jittery look when it's appropriate, but I'm getting sick of all these action films using it with reckless abandon.

Finally, this movie just gets really fuckin weird. I mean, we see a kid doing karate with a boner. I kid you not. Sometimes it was quirky, but mostly it was just strange and didn't suit the rest of the movie. I wouldn't have wanted the writing to be witless, I really think quirkiness is necessary. There just wasn't enough of it in this film. And don't get me started on the ending, which is one of the dumbest "twists" I have ever seen on film.

As for the cast, Aces does have some great actors. The best parts of this movie were Piven, Liotta, and Jason Bateman as a scumbag lawyer. Oh, and I also enjoyed Chris Pine as one of the neo-Nazi hitman, if only because the role is so vastly different from the last film I saw him in (Just My Luck).

It's a shame, this movie had real potential. Apparently Joe Carnahan's Narc was amazing and I still intend to see it someday. I dig the idea of all these different assasins trying to out-do each other for a hit. Unfortunately, both the script and direction veered off-course into cliche territory.