There have been few movies I have wanted to walk out of, particularly when I’ve paid to see them. Smokin Aces, however, was one movie which had me seriously considering a cost/benefit analysis for my afternoon, particularly since I skived off work early to watch it.
Smokin Aces is the atypical story of an FBI-Mafia stakeout. It explores the difficulty of building legal cases against teflon-underworld-types amidst turf contests between competing state and federal agencies, and the navigation of intersecting spheres of changing loyalties and large egos.
If only for the cast (Ray Liotta, Ryan Reynolds, Jeremy Piven, Andy Garcia, Ben Affleck, Alicia Keys and Jason Bateman), Aces promised a certain degree of quality. The cast, however, did not hide the movie’s derivative qualities. It is neither as smooth or sophisticated as the Ocean’s movies, nor as gritty or realistic as the Lock, Stock ones.
The ultimate sin of this movie was that it tried too hard. Severe lapses of logic, too many plot leaps, and a lack of realism (and reality) were all overlooked in the desire to provide a massaged box office hit. These faults were compounded by unbelievable acting, where it seemed that facial hair was utilized in lieu of actual toughness and street smarts. Having Ben Affleck play ‘the hard man’ clearly indicates the limits of believability within this film.
I began writing my review halfway through the movie. Amateur, clichéd, tryhard, tiresome, painful and just plain bad were all thoughts jotted down in the flickering glare of the big screen. Just when the incessantly yappy characters and lack of plot sophistication were becoming painfully jarring, I realized – thankfully – that I had written too soon.
Just as I was thinking that the only redeeming feature of the movie was seeing Martin Henderson being maimed, the ending snuck up on me.
And what an ending it was: gruesome, bloody and well staged. It lacked the panache of Tarantino, but it was well worth the wait. I could think of worse ways to spend my afternoon.