guess we have to thank (or blame) Quentin Tarantino for movies like
Smokin’ Aces, even over a decade after he jumpstarted the nouveau
noir genre with Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and True Romance.
While the Tarantino-wannabes have mercifully slowed to a trickle in recent
years, every once in a while a film-geek disciple will pop up with a movie
full of colorfully amoral criminals played by surprisingly big name stars,
shooting each other with gay abandon.
Smokin' Aces is one of these cartoonish noir
slaughterfests. The plot all revolves around Buddy “Aces”
Israel (Jeremy Piven), a cheesy Vegas magician and entertainer who fancies himself a
gangster. Aces is holed up in a Lake Tahoe penthouse where he partakes of
insane amounts of drugs and prostitutes while his agent – yes, his agent –
tries to negotiate immunity and witness protection with the Feds in return
for testifying the case of an elderly don who was once a good friend.
is being hunted by the FBI (Ryan Reynolds and Ray Liotta), bounty hunters
(Ben Affleck, Peter Berg and Martin Henderson), cohorts (Common) and several
teams of debauched hit people (including singer Alicia Keys, Taraji Henson,
Nestor Carbonell, Chris Pine and Tommy Flanagan).
of these slimy characters cross and double cross each other across the
Nevada desert, eventually all touching down in a Tahoe casino where all of
them set out to slay Aces, though most of them end up killing each other in
spectacular bursts of violence.
one – criminals or lawmen alike – gives even a moment’s thought or
hesitation to all of the potential innocent bystanders who could be killed
by the thousands and thousands of rounds of gun fire – not to mention the
chainsaws, hypodermic needles and explosives. And I’ve never seen so many
hidden shivs in my life. You can almost understand the law falling for it
the first time, but eventually you have to wonder how these killers are able
to get away with the same damned move over and over and again.
moment I really recognized how totally I was not buying into this movie’s
crazed world view and forced eccentricity – in fact that I was rather
repulsed by it – was a scene where a mortally wounded bounty hunter crawls
up to a local farmhouse. Inside he is nursed to health by a cheerful older
woman and tormented by her grandson – a twelve-ish nerd with huge coke
bottle glasses who talks in fake ghetto-speak and threatens the man
while he is in a bathtub with a series of just
barely pulled karate blows, all the while sporting a huge boner in his
pajamas. That isn’t merely quirky, that’s
seriously creepy. I felt like I needed a shower just because I had watched
that any of the other characters were in any way likable, they were all just
varying degrees of disgusting.
final big reveal – where top Fed Andy Garcia lays it all out for agent
Reynolds in great detail – is trying desperately to be the movie’s big
Kayser Soze moment. Instead it is tortured and convoluted – a desperate
attempt to justify all the mayhem that has proceeded. It makes little sense
and even less difference to much of what has happened. In the end it makes
it seem all of this was a huge misunderstanding, giving Smokin’ Aces
a weird vibe like the most violent episode of Three’s Company ever.
final reaction to Smokin’ Aces will all be a matter of taste. If
you’re into stylized gonzo violence then you’ll be in heaven here. I know
there are a lot of people in that category and I’d never begrudge them their
fun. To me, it was just a bunch of style over substance and I really
couldn’t give a shit if any of the characters lived or died. (1/07)
PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 17, 2007.