I was excited about Smokin’ Aces because this is really my type of movie: fast-paced, frenetic, violent, featuring characters with a singular focus who are hell-bent on carrying out the task at hand. However, I was a tad disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, Smokin’ Aces was a highly entertaining movie overall, it just came across as the product of a poor-man’s Quentin Tarantino. The dialogue was fast and funny, the acting pretty good…but something about the movie felt thrown together. Smokin’ Aces was akin to deciding to make a painting by taking a bunch of paint and throwing it on a blank canvas: some parts will look kinda cool, but others will look like a complete mess.
The cast is an eclectic mix of seasoned and inexperienced actors, from Ray Liotta (Goodfellas) to Alicia Keys. Jeremy Piven of Entourage is featured as the main character, Buddy “Aces” Israel, a washed-up Vegas high-roller turned government snitch. The movie begins with a quick (and I do mean quick) recitation of the plot, making it crystal clear what we’re in for: About a dozen hitmen will attempt to take out Israel before he can sing to the Feds, and a handsome sum will be paid to the victor. Israel doesn’t know about the bounty, but he has holed up in the penthouse suite of a Lake Tahoe hotel, awaiting the specifics of the deal he struck with the government. He’s guarded by Sir Ivy (played by the always-sexy Common), and two other henchmen.
The best thing about Smokin’ Aces was the dialogue; it was hilarious, risqué, off-color, crude, and very authentic. Piven was effective as the pathetic, sleazy Israel, and he actually manages to make him seem sympathetic a time or two. Alicia Keys and Taraji Henson (Baby Boy, Hustle & Flow) nearly steal the show as a pair of sassy assassins. You like that? Sassy assassins? Say that ten times fast. Alright, if you liked Lucky Number Slevin, Domino, or Running Scared (I loved all three), then you will probably enjoy Smokin’ Aces. Just don’t expect it to be as good.