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SMOKIN ACES, 2006
Movie Reviews!

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SMOKIN ACES MOVIE POSTER
SMOKIN ACES, 2006
Movie Reviews

Directed by Joe Carnahan
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Joseph Ruskin, Wayne Newton, Ben Affleck, Peter Berg, Andy Garcia, Alex Rocco, Common, Martin Henderson
Review by Anthony Suen



SYNOPSIS:

A Vegas magician with ties within the Mafia encloses himself from the FBI and the Mafia boss in a hotel penthouse to avoid confronting the federal government about exposing the Mafia’s plans. A hit is soon placed out on him and several psychopaths, mercenaries, and assassins try their luck at capturing Buddy ‘Aces’ Isreal before the Feds do.

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REVIEW:

Out of all the non-stop action flick choices in the recent years, many have come and gone to display their overwhelming and sensational violence to the general willing (and sometimes unwilling) public. Chances are someone has dragged you along, or maybe you went on your own whim, to see some wicked gunfights and a non-stop, high-octane action. Lots of choices, yet Smokin’ Aces stays on my personal top lists of shoot-em’-up’s of recent years for a couple of reasons.

The first being it’s pleasantly inviting cast. Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta and Ben Affleck are only naming a few. Not only does this line-up have plenty to brag about, other cast members include pop-culture icons like Common and Alicia Keys to draw in an even wider audience. The pleasantries of having a decent cast play out in a movie like this are reassuring. Either they sacrifice the action with one or two strong characters and chop up the rest of the cast, dumb down the action to a boring level and try to over-connect with audience. While the action is the most important aspect of action movies, the performances are really the most essential in creating and selling the action that takes place.

While cast plays a big part, as I said, action movies do need action. What it boils down to is how this movie sells its action. Does it jump right into it? Is there lead-up? Character development? Are we connected to these characters that are shooting and pistol-whipping their way through the movie? The last question is rarely ever a yes, and it’s one of the reasons why I think actions rarely tend to work. At the same time, if you have a certain mentality on expectations of high-octane shooters, movies like this are sure to please.

Unfortunately, most critics don’t have that certain type of mentality, which is why this film scores so low. This isn’t Transformers: RotF-level sensory assault, so I don’t mean sink your mentality low enough to that standard, but keep an open mind. There is enough character development with Liotta’s and Reynold’s characters to be able to drive the film forward by just those two, yet the addition of all the supporting cast amps up the tension tenfold. When that final standoff between all of these characters—and it’s fun to see absolutely everyone involved in this—the narrative payoff is satisfying. Lots of people die, but lots of chaos is happening. Actions (and even action-thrillers) thrive on chaos. You have high-calibre sniper rifles, shooting in the dark, hidden knives, chainsaws and everything that amounts to un-caged action. A formula I prefer in the best or worst of the genre.

Where the film is said to go wrong seems to be a crossroads at “QT rip-off” and “characterized caricatures.” The direction the film takes at the later stages shies away from the chaotic fun of its first hour, but I hardly believe that is enough to compromise the film. Yes, some things are reminiscent of a Tarantino flick, and no, I don’t believe it’s fully a coincidence. Yes, these characters are outlandish, wacky and frankly unrealistic, but no, I don’t believe that they are unnecessary. Like I said, keep an open mind. Even if this shoot-em’-up drops its superficial nature and tries to delve deeper in its narrative, give it some room. Most others don’t dare go into that territory, in fears of confusing and excluding a large fanbase. Despite being critically unsuccessful in this endeavour, you can’t solely distinguish it as a failure because of that. Even after the fact, this film still remains fun.

To be honest, this is a ‘guy movie,’ as Peter Travers from the Rolling Stone eloquently puts it. Reynolds and Liotta play the typical bromance, and there are QT elements smacked in there, albeit in a kid’s meal. The film starts of well, builds up well, climaxes well, and descends into seriousness not so well. When the action stops however, your senses can breathe as well, and it lets you reminisce about the pros of this film. It’s action, without a doubt. There’s an interesting story, complicated, but I’d hardly say convoluted. The cast is more than enjoyable. There’s nothing to back up, “Hey, this movie is bad because of this.” There are plenty that would disagree with me, but I say let the film breath, even if it doesn’t let you.

If you’re looking for action, this film provides it. If you’re looking for a fun movie, this one is a must-see. If you enjoy mainstream, full-nonsense blockbusters, this film is acceptable enough. And even if there’s a slight twist to its usual formula, it’s refreshing and captivating to see (as captivating as a shoot-em’-up’s can be). Smokin’ Aces should be viewed with expectations of a different kind. If you expect to be entertained, this film succeeds with flying, explosive colours.

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