Monday, January 17, 2011

Review - Smokin' Aces (2006)

“To what? Incinerate? Hugo there isn't a fuckin laundry detergent or dry cleaning product known to man that will get that clean. Some shit, suffice it to say, just don't wash out.”

Director: Joe Carnahan
Starring: Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds and Ray Liotta
Screenplay: Joe Carnahan

Smokin Aces is an exercise in frustration and this is coming from a guy who really likes this movie. High stakes premise. Check. Crazy characters. Check. Crazy action. Um well the trailer made it seem that there would be. Maybe I’m doing the movie a disservice by saying it doesn’t have action, because it does but it just seems to fizzle out and doesn’t really satisfy. I almost feel that the A-Team was what this movie was supposed to be. I still like this movie, there is a charm to it that Joe Carnahan seems to imbue all his movies with but I watch it and I wish there was more. No I don’t want that stupid ass direct to DVD crap.

Where did it all go wrong? It’s certainly not the acting. Everyone here is on form and having a lot of fun. Ben Affleck seems to want to almost wink to the audience. Ray Liotta is just solid as the older wiser FBI agent. Jason Bateman drops in for a funny cameo. Just wall to wall great acting. Jeremy Piven as Buddy ‘Aces’ Israel is the star of the show. His turn as the man who everyone wants dead is just a study in sleaze and yet there is something in his eye, a sorrow in his voice that does generate audience sympathy. Ryan Reynolds is also on top form and this was the first movie that made me a believer in his acting ability. I’m sure as he gets older he will move into films that are a little more Oscar worthy and at least nab a nomination. The scene between him and Andy Garcia is just tense and somewhat emotional and what more Reynolds doesn’t just keep up the pace with Garcia, but dare I stay wins that acting round.

Okay so acting isn’t the problem, what about the visual? Well yet again it’s pretty good. Joe knows how to get some good shots, when to be artistic and when to just get down to the nitty gritty. He really does have a kinetic sensibility, and while I hate this age of MTV style editing I have to admit he’s the type of director who knows how to use it. Also due to the wide variety of characters there is an attempt to really differentiate the look of each character. Each seems to have that signature thing that helps them stand out.

So what the problem comes down is the story and character development. While the premise is good, and the characters seem rather unique, the arc each character goes through just doesn’t seem developed enough. The story also seems intent on getting to a big emotional scene at the end which I don’t think it really deserved. What more the crazy action which seems to be the main promise of the movie kind of fizzles to me. Sure there is action but we aren’t given long enough to soak in the action as we are quickly moved to the next scene because the characters are all over the place. Also there seems to be a focus on Buddy ‘Aces’ Israel which I think is a mistake. While the back story is appreciated I do think the two FBI agents (Liotta & Reynolds) should have been the characters that were given the brunt of the time, as they are the ones that the audience’s sympathies will lie with (unless the audience is full of disturbed people). It’s weird to say this about an action movie as you normally want things to be wham bam thankyou mam, but some extra length would have been appreciated.

Overall I dig Smokin Aces as it’s that type of action movie that I adore. Crazy action mixed in with a cast of colourful characters. It’s easy to see why Mr Carnahan moved onto The A-Team after this. But Smokin Aces could have been so much more if it was given a little more time with a little more focus. I would recommend this to anyone who’s looking for a decent action movie with a little more style over the rest.


  1. Hadn't heard much about this movie but it sure looks interesting .

  2. Well I think it's good. Just disappointing in the wasted potential department.