out of Five
Running time: 109
Stylish, violent and pleasingly chaotic, this an enjoyable thriller despite the occasional misfire.
What's it all about?
Stylishly directed by Joe Carnahan (who made the excellent Narc), Smokin' Aces stars Jeremy Piven as Vegas magician turned Mafia snitch, Buddy (Aces) Israel. As he holes himself up under heavy guard in his Lake Tahoe hotel suite (complete with hookers and drugs on demand), various assassins, Feds and bounty hunters attempt to get their hands on him.
The ensemble cast is excellent, particularly Ryan Reynolds as the FBI Agent who has to try and make sense of the ensuing carnage. It's his most serious role to date – the trademark wisecracks are kept to a bare minimum and his performance is stronger as a result, particularly during his final scene.
Piven is equally good, although his character is wasted for most of the film, which feels like a missed opportunity. Other stand-outs include Alicia Keys and Taraji P. Henson as a pair of hitwomen, an unrecognisable Joel Edgerton as a Russian thug and Arrested Development's Jason Bateman in an hilarious, scene-stealing turn as a bail bondsman.
There are so many characters that it's often hard to keep track of what's going on, particularly during the early scenes. Luckily, Carnahan starts whittling them down fairly quickly and Affleck-haters can at least take comfort in the fact that his character is an early casualty.
The film doesn't always work. It takes a while to really get going and drags a bit in the middle, though there's usually an amusing cameo just around the corner. Similarly, the violence is a little bit too strong for what is essentially a darkly comic thriller. Rarely has the term bloodbath seemed more appropriate.
The talented ensemble cast and Carnahan's slick, colourful direction ensure that Smokin' Aces remains an enjoyable and engaging thriller, though the violence may be a bit too strong for some. Worth seeing.