Smokin’ Aces (2007) dir. Joe Carnahan
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jeremy Piven, Ray Liotta, Andy Garcia
“Smokin’ Aces” is a madcap action-comedy derived from the “Cannonball Run” school of filmmaking, throw in lots of famous actors give them a maguffin to find and let them loose.
That just about sums up the ‘plot’ of “Smokin’ Aces”, or at least the idea behind it. To give more detail, Jeremy Piven plays Buddy “Aces” Israel, a strung out Vegas magician turned gangster living atop a Reno Hotel waiting to make a deal with the cops for immunity in return for snitching on the mob. The mob has put out a bounty on his head - $1million (that’s it? I’m reminded of the ‘Austin Powers’ gag). Out of the woodwork comes a host of would-be takers – bail bondsmen, mobsters, hitmen, etc all trying to claim the prize. Among them are: Ben Affleck, Peter Berg, Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, and Alicia Keys.
Some get blown away by each other along the way, some survive. Eventually the cops show up and Buddy is taken to the hospital, where more action and revelations are played out.
The film is a blatant rip off of “True Romance” – or at least the final scene expanded into a whole movie. There’s lots of coke, guns, weird beard-art, ripped muscle-heads, cop-talk, surveillance cameras, huge guns, green cinematography, pop music etc. Perhaps it was made to serve as Carnahan’s audition tape for Jerry Bruckheimer. It’s ridiculous how much he steals from Bruckheimer-alum Tony Scott. Just watch the introduction of the backstory:
The film is frustrating because it clearly wants us to think strung out characters are cool – Jeremy Piven’s disheveled bedhead look is obviously inspired by “Scarface.” But we never like Buddy Israel because he’s strung out and disheveled from beginning to end. “Scarface” actually showed (over the course of 3 hours as well) how Tony Montana got to that place. So it’s a cheap copout. It’s like making the final scene of “Scarface” into a standalone movie. Basically it’s a video game, which, considering their increasingly complex narratives, might be an insult to video games. Perhaps Carnahan thought we would instant love Piven through his Ari Gold character in “Entourage.” Sorry, Joe, didn’t work.
What a bad miscalculation for Carnahan. Though, perhaps he was just letting off steam after being fired from “Mission Impossible” III the year before.
Buy it here: Smokin' Aces