• Audrey Walter

Smokin' Aces: Star-Filled Shootout

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

Full of Action and Ahead of Its Time

Smokin’ Aces is a movie directed by Joe Carnahan and stars several big-name actors. Prior to my boyfriend bringing this movie up in conversation, I had never even heard of it. As I searched Google about the movie and who starred in it, I noticed it got some pretty bad reviews from critics. But when I watched the trailer for the movie on YouTube, most of the comments were quite positive. It’s common to see such a disparity between critics and the audience.

This time, I agreed with the audience.

Spoilers Ahead!

As I stated before, this movie is up to its neck with famous actors. I’ll name off the most notable: Ben Affleck, Alicia Keys, Ray Liotta, Ryan Reynolds, Jeremy Piven, Taraji P. Henson, Jason Bateman, Chris Pine, and Joel Edgerton.

With such a cast like this, it felt like Avengers: Endgame.

The movie begins with Donald Carruthers (Ray Liotta) and Richard Messner (Ryan Reynolds) listening in to a phone conversation about a mafia boss named Primo Sparazza. What they get from this call is that a bunch of assassins are planning on taking out a Las Vegas showman named Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jeremy Piven) and removing his heart.

Why? Because Buddy has dipped his toes too far into mafia business. Once the two FBI agents get word on the plan, they begin to travel to Lake Tahoe where Buddy Israel is staying to stop the mafia crime.

It’s a very fun and unique plot that involves several assassins trying to complete the same mission: kill Buddy Israel. The bounty is around a million dollars, so it’s a big prize for all these headhunters. But the movie reveals something quite big: it was all a misunderstanding.

A quite disheveled Buddy Israel (Jeremy Piven) thinking about his demise.

In actuality, Primo Sparazza is Buddy Israel’s deadbeat dad who wants Israel’s heart as a transplant since he’s on his deathbed. Only one of the assassins was actually contracted to take out Israel. But he was only supposed to put him into a coma or knock him unconscious so that he could go to the hospital where the operation could begin.

This all means that the other assassins were trying to kill Buddy Israel for nothing. And most either died or failed anyway. I really enjoyed the character design of most of the assassins as well. First, there are three ex-cops who seem like they are the least equipped for the hit. One of the ex-cops is Ben Affleck who gets killed by another group of assassins named The Tremors.

The Tremors were these wild and steampunk, Mad Max-esque headhunters. They seemed to kill anyone who got in their way. One of the headhunters was Chris Pine. It was hilarious seeing him put on a hillbilly accent with his fake bad teeth. The makeup artists tried to make him as ugly as they could.

The next two assassins were Georgia Sykes (Alicia Keys) and Sharice Watters (Taraji P. Henson.) Sharice was a sharpshooter and Alicia was the one who went straight into the action.

I'd probably have a crush on Georgia Sykes, too.

Throughout the movie, we see that Sharice has a bit of a crush on Georgia. It upset me that it never went anywhere. Georgia was one of the few assassins who lived because she was carried off by Common, who played Buddy Israel’s bodyguard. And suddenly they’re all into each other. It was weird and heteronormative if you ask me.

Then there was Pasquale Acosta (Nestor Carbonell) who was an expert in torture and did freelance work for the CIA. He barely makes it out alive after being in a deadly shootout between him and Detective Carruthers.

Lastly, there was Lazlo Soot (Tommy Flanagan) who was the real contracted killer for the operation. He’s a master of disguise and can take on any face of someone he has killed before. A bit like Arya Stark, right? Except he uses extremely detailed latex masks.

Now, this whole movie is pretty much an action-packed hour and a half. There isn’t much to talk about except the very convoluted ending twist. I won’t explain all of it, but let me tell you, it’s a bit hard to follow. You’ll have to think it through a little bit to remember the details. It’s not as bad as what critics said, but it is a bit much. That being said, I enjoyed the ending scene a lot.

Everyone in this movie gave a decent performance. It was nothing amazing, though. But I didn’t expect anything amazing either, so I guess I’m okay with that. The movie had some naturally funny moments as well, which made it feel more like current action movies. This movie was released in 2007 so I feel like it would’ve done better nowadays. Action and comedy now go hand in hand, so it would’ve been perfect.

But I did have one very large qualm about the movie.

Most annoying part of the movie.

When one of the ex-cops survives The Tremors' attack, he crawls his way toward a small house where a woman and her grandson live. It was so random and out of place. The grandson was so annoying, which I guess was the point, but the tone didn’t fit the rest of the movie. The camera work that occurred during the grandson’s parts was atrocious as well. I assume the director thought it’d be hilarious but it was just cringey.

The tone of this movie was very much like a comic book. It had charming characters that weren’t forgettable and had some fun action scenes. The pace was quite fast, but I expected that with a movie like this.

However, I do wish more time was spent explaining the mystery behind Primo Sparazza. I would’ve liked to understand it more than I did. It was an interesting premise and more work should’ve gone into that. The critics would’ve appreciated that a bit more.

My Verdict?

Smokin’ Aces was a very fun, action-packed movie filled to the brim with stars. It had everything an action movie lover enjoys: blood, fun fight scenes, comedy, and Alicia Keys looking pretty. Though I understand where the critics were coming from, to a simple audience member, this movie was a fun watch and I’d recommend it to anyone who wanted a fun movie to pass the time.

I give Smokin' Aces a 7/10.

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