Smokin’ Aces

Smokin’ Aces

4 Stars

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and that means a slew of “chick flicks” will be released for girlfriends to drag their unsuspecting boyfriends to. But after you see a cheesy romantic flick, she owes you, and you can take her to “Smokin’ Aces”, the definition of a badass guy flick.

Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jeremy Piven) is a strung out Las Vegas showman and wannabe mobster. As he’s about squeal on the Mafioso who helped him with his frame, a $1 million bounty is put on his head, and oddly his heart. A huge cache of colorful characters decide to cash in, including bondsman Jack Dupree (Ben Affleck), crazy neo-Nazi brothers called The Tremors, and Georgia Sykes (Alicia Keys), posing as one of Israel’s many hired prostitutes. Meanwhile, FBI agents Carruthers and Messner (Ray Liotta and Ryan Reynolds) are charged with making sure Israel testifies as planned.

It’s violent, it’s bloody, it’s stylish and it’s sheer entertainment. Writer/director Joe Carnahan marks his return after a nearly five year absence since his debut with the fantastic “Narc”. He comes on with a visual style that seems like a restrained Tony Scott, which is good, as Scott tends to go overboard on a regular basis. Carnahan orchestrates a gritty, no holds barred crime action flick with plenty of laughs and plenty of heart. Not to mention one of the best twist endings in recent years. Unfortunately, he started to show his hand on the ending a bit too soon, leaving the audience to contemplate it before the major revelation at the end.

Piven (“Entourage”) as the conflicted, opportunistic and coked up Israel gives what could have been an Oscar worthy performance, but “Aces” just isn’t that kind of movie. Reynolds (“Van Wilder”) also gives a noteworthy performance as the cocky turned devastated FBI agent. His character runs the full range of emotions in this film, and Reynolds handles them all spot on. Even Affleck turned in a decent, yet brief, performance. I’m just curious as to how much longer Andy Garcia is going to keep doing an Al Pacino impression.

But beyond the stars, it’s the entire cast that makes this flick work. If even just one was off, it would have come down like a house of cards. But they all work together with Swiss watch-like efficiency that it can’t help but be just pure fun times.

Despite the good time I was having in the theatre, I couldn’t help but get the feeling I had seen this all before. He drew influence from the work of Quentin Tarantino, Tony Scott and Guy Ritchie. All had perfected that sort of big, ensemble, bombastic crime comedy/drama with “Reservoir Dogs”, “True Romance” and “Snatch” (respectively), and Carnahan took a page from each one of those films to craft his film. This doesn’t detract from the ability to enjoy his flick, or the fact that it is good in its own right, not by any stretch of the imagination. It just feels that in the 16 years since Tarantino came out with “Reservoir Dogs”, it would be high time for a reinvention of the genre.

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