reviewed by Andrew James
On the surface, the story is pretty simple. The mob needs an informant rubbed out and is willing to pay big bucks to the assailant who can finish the job. The target, played by Jeremy Piven, is an ex-Vegas showman who runs with the handle: Buddy “Aces” Israel. Buddy is a foulmouthed, drug-using, bossy fellow who likes to demean his henchmen and bark out orders. Therefore, he's immediately not too likable of a guy for us to care about. He keeps himself holed up on a secret floor in a Hotel in Lake Tahoe. The huge bounty ($1 million) hits the grapevine in a big way and pretty soon every bounty hunter/hitman within seven states is on the move; all hoping to get the job done first and take home the money. A "climactic" clash of villainry is what ensues. Meanwhile, the FBI (Reynolds and Liotta) is also in the loop and is trying to reach Buddy and bring him to safety before the multitude of hitman carry out the wishes of the mob.
The fun of this movie is supposed to lie with the various teams of unsavory characters hired to carry out the job: two black feminists, three death meatal skinheads, a master of disguise, three bumbling bail bondsmen and a psychopathic torturer. Each team of assassins had such potential to be a major part of the enjoyment of this film with their uniquie weaponry and various styles of assault. But unfortunately they are hardly explored at all and most of them might as well have been extras in a James Bond movie. Perhaps if the dialogue given to them had more depth than an episode of "Stephen Hawking meets the Earthworm," there might've been a bit more interest.
The only real character of note was played by Jason Bateman who absolutely stole the movie as an obviously sex-crazed, alcoholic lawyer with fast talk and herpes on his lips. An absolute classic role that I'd almost be willing to pay money to see it again. Too bad it only lasts about ten minutes.
So the story seems simple enough right? But when the screeplay calls in a few flashbacks of FBI backstory from the 40's, we can see some sort of twist gurgling beneath the surface. I won't give anything away of course, but suffice it to say it's not too hard to basically see what's coming. And when the plot is revealed, it's a major let down; both in idea and practice.
Smokin' Aces is basically a flip through a deck of cards. We're never able to stop and see anything clearly before we're on to the next card, but we see glimpses of different colors and figures all blurred together. With the erratic, chaotic editing and style of pretty much every frame of the movie, it's easy to have the sheet pulled over our eyes to make us think we're seeing something nifty. But upon closer examination, there really isn't one interesting thing to say about any particular sequence of events throughout the entire film.
I hate to completely tear apart this film since it looks so fun and interesting on the outside. But once we're in, it's just a bunch of jibberish that lacks intensity, emotion and just rang false for me. For those of you that really liked Domino (and I was actually one of the few who did), you may be able to stomach this one easier than the rest. Domino has got a similar style, albeit a better storyline. Smokin' Aces has lots of guns, blood and shoot-em-up, but no real action or believable storyline at its heart. As Kenny Rogers said, "You gotta know when to hold em and when to fold em and know when to walk away." With this particular hand of aces, choose the latter.
Listen to our CINECAST discussing Smokin' Aces (episode #32)
IMDb.com - full cast and crew
FLIXSTER PROFILE for Smokin' Aces