Smokin’ Aces (2006)   3 Stars

“Let There Be Blood”


Smokin' Aces (2006)

Director: Joe Carnahan

Cast: Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta

Synopsis: When a Las Vegas performer-turned-snitch named Buddy Israel decides to turn state’s evidence and testify against the mob, it seems that a whole lot of people would like to make sure he’s no longer breathing.




For the most part, this movie is like a white-knuckle roller-coaster ride: enthralling — almost exhilarating at times — while you’re on it, but when you get off the memories are overshadowed by a bleeding nose, a pounding head and an aching hand from clutching the safety rail too tight. It isn’t great movie-making, that’s for sure, but neither is it holding itself out to be. It wants to be a fun ride, one that carries the viewer along and leaves them with no time to consider the inconsistencies until it has dumped them at the other end.

The first 10 minutes is all exposition, delivered at a breakneck pace that leaves your head spinning, but it’s important to pay attention because the twist at the end (and it is, admittedly both a simultaneously outrageous and lame twist) is directly related to the information imparted in this opening sequence. We are introduced to a host of bizarre characters, seemingly culled from the likes of Mad Max, 60s spy spoofs, Goodfella-wannabes, and characters that Tarantino discarded because they just weren’t quirky enough. It could all seem over-derivative, but the film somehow manages to pulse with its own manic brand of energy that sets it apart from most other films it might remind you of.

Writer director Joe Carnahan injects some snappy one-liners amongst what passes for hip slang these days, and creates some unique characters — one can only wonder from where he dreamed up the hyperactive kung-fu kid with attitude who’s dad has ‘got some clarity issues. Did some home invasion, sodomy-torture type stuff, wrote a lot of bad cheques’. And while the pathos for which he reaches in the final reel isn’t quite within his grasp, the finale is still just about strong enough to keep from letting the rest of the film down.