- Jeremy Piven as Buddy ‘Aces’ Israel
- Ray Liotta as Carruthers
- Ryan Reynolds as Messner
- Alicia Keys as Georgia Sykes
- Taraji P. Henson as Sharice Watters
- Tommy Flanagan as Lazlo Soot
- Nestor Carbonell as Pasquale Acosta
- Chris Pine as Darwin Tremor
- Kevin Durand as Jeeves Tremor
- Maury Sterling as Lester Tremor
- Andy Garcia as Deputy Director Locke
- Common as Ivy
- Ben Affleck as Jack Dupree
- Martin Henderson as Hollis Elmore
- Peter Berg as Pete Deeks
- Jason Bateman as Rupert Reed
An all out violent spectacle of crime, action and weirdness, Smokin Aces is best enjoyed as a brainless action flick. Though saying this, the film attempts to get more serious which doesn’t exactly sit well with the rest of the piece. Smokin Aces still keeps you entertained throughout with the ensemble cast and shocking events, but it is a bit of a mess.
Las Vegas magician and gangster wannabe Buddy ‘Aces’ Israel is involved with the Mob( who have helped his growing success) as he wants a piece of the action. Like all wannabes, he has messed up a lot and knowing this, he has now become a turncoat. He promises the FBI crucial information on the Mob, in exchange for his safety. Yet the Mob already knows of Buddy’s traitorous behaviour and the head of the crime family places a $1 million bounty on his head. Meanwhile the FBI, under the command of Deputy Director Locke has ordered two of his agents, Carruthers and Messner to go to a hotel in Lake Tahoe where Buddy is holed up in the penthouse suite. They are to make sure nothing happens to him, as his testimony is extremely valuable for the FBI. As the bounty on the weasel that is Buddy is so high, all sorts of criminals and mercenaries come out of the woodwork for a piece of the action. These include sexy contract killers Georgia Sykes and Sharice Watters, torture expert Pasquale Acosta, bail bondsman Jack Dupree and his two fellows friends, a man who specialises in disguise Lazlo Soot and three crazed Neo-Nazi siblings, The Tremor Brothers. Yet events change for the FBI’s plans regarding the washed-up Israel and something sinister is definitely a miss, which puts Carruthers and Messner in very real danger. As the parties of assassins and contract killers reach the hotel, all matter of hell is going to break out. Everyone converges in bloody fashion as they attempt to either kill, capture or save Israel who is a much wanted man, dead or alive.
Joe Carnahan writes and directs Smokin Aces as a shoot em up slice of carnage and chaos. I did think he got for the most post the right vibe for this film, with strange and darkly comedic undertones thrown into the blender. He has a sure hand on the action that implodes from all angles once everyone reaches the hotel and is more than adept with style. His visual eye can best be described as frenetic and adrenaline infused, as he barely pauses for a breath and bombards you with quick flashes galore. It’s all very unusual but fits the absolute crazy tone of the film. It’s when he tries to deepen Smokin Aces that the cracks begin to appear significantly. Granted, some of the depth pays off but it is largely superfluous and grows to be very strung out as the film reaches the climax. If he had just left the film as it was with the outrageous and ridiculous abundance of fighting and bullet play, it might have been a bit more substantial. Instead, Smokin Aces reaches too high and shoots itself in the foot by attempting to be something more than it is. It is a ridiculous and wild film but that is what sells it well during most of it, only to be let down by a plot that gets way to convoluted for its own good. Anyhow, there is still enough bloodshed and flashy style to keep you watching Smokin Aces. A slashing and breakneck soundtrack accompanies the film to a successful degree of pulse-pounding violence and brutality.
With any film that boasts an ensemble cast, you are going to get people who stand out more than others. Smokin Aces is no exception to that rule, with some giving it their all as a rogues gallery and others left with only small and nondescript parts. Jeremy Piven plays the part of Buddy, who the whole plot centres on as he is the one who everyone wants to either kill or harm. Piven sells the part pretty effectively; displaying the drugged-up and altogether pathetic man who wanted to play gangster but whose obnoxious attitude and poor decisions led to him turning snitch. The character isn’t really likable, but Piven gives it his best to invest something into him. Two of the best roles in the film belong to Ray Liotta and Ryan Reynolds, with Liotta quite good as the seasoned and professional agent. Ryan Reynolds in particular stood out to me as the straight arrow agent learning of betrayal and his performance was pretty spot on in displaying a mature and sombre change in character. Singer Alicia Keys, in her first movie role, sizzles as the sexy part of a two woman squad of deadly contract killers. With her low voice and sultry attitude, Keys displays a lot of potential as an actress here which is refreshing as most singers who attempt acting fail. Backing her up is the feisty personality of Taraji. P Henson as the outspoken but highly skilled shooter. Tommy Flanagan bristles with uneasy menace as a master of disguise, but Nestor Carbonell is sadly underused as the creepy torture guy.
Stealing most of Smokin Aces however is the trio consisting of Chris Pine, Kevin Durand and Maury Sterling portraying the absolutely off-the-wall Tremor Brothers. They liven up the already bouncing movie with crazy antics and nasty glee, chewing their parts to bits as they wipe out hundred with there precious and strange artillery. Trust me, these guys are just some of the craziest things you will witness in a movie chock full of perversity and what the hell trips. Andy Garcia, who is for me a lot of the time very reliable, is given scant to do which is a definite shame as he could have really been a force of nature.Rapper Common is well employed as Buddy’s bodyguard, who sees that he has been lied to by his employer as part of his pardon agreement. Ben Affleck appears in what amounts to a limited part, but when he is there I liked the cynical attitude of him. The other two men who feature in his part of the story, Peter Berg and Martin Henderson are unfortunately stranded without a lifeline. Far more successful in a small part is Jason Bateman, who in two scenes owns it as the disheveled and uncouth attorney involved in Buddy’s case.
I have been left with somewhat mixed thoughts about Smokin Aces. While I like the outrageous nature and blood-soaked action, I didn’t take too kindly to the fact that it tried to be something more thoughtful. Action movies by definition are ones that you switch the brain off for. Though I did lean more towards the enjoyment factor in this balls out action venture, despite my grievances.