Rated R; Directed by Joe Carnahan; Starring Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Andy Garcia, Alicia Keys, Ben Affleck, Peter Berg, Martin Henderson, Chris Pine, Jason Bateman
Blame Quentin Tarantino. His “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” started a film trend: screenplays full of creative violence, cynical humor, and characters living on the outskirts of society. Directors continue to follow in Tarantino’s footsteps and some succeed at bringing a clever, entertaining, and energetic movie to the big screen. Unfortunately, “Smokin’ Aces” is not one of them.
“Smokin’ Aces” has one thing going for it. We get to see a multitude of ways hit men try to kill their mark. Some are very creative. We have torturers, face-changers, sexy females, ex-cops, and wacked-out chain-sawing weirdos. Who are all these hit men after? Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jeremy Piven), a Las Vegas entertainer who is turning state’s witness against the mob. The unlucky FBI agents protecting Israel find themselves unprepared for the craziness about to ensue.
Writer and director Joe Carnahan (“Ticker”) gives us plenty of fun ideas — well, if watching the body count increase every few minutes or so is fun — but it all seems tired and stale. The action is loud, but the adrenaline doesn’t pump. A surprise twist isn’t much of a surprise. The film also tries to go for some deep, ridiculous message near the end, which ruins what fun we’ve had.
Carnahan manages to bring a good cast together. The standouts include Ray Liotta, Alicia Keys, and Jason Bateman, who has the one truly hilarious scene in the film.
“Smokin’ Aces” aims to live up to its Tarantinoish forerunners and fitfully hits the mark. Lots of violence, some humor, and multiple characters with guns make for a mediocre movie.