Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I still need to finish up my reviews from BNAT, but I have to say ol' McNulty here has a very similar point of view on Joe Carnahan's movie. The movie is nuts, bat-shit insane nuts at times, and is really fun. But it's an extremely hollow flick with some questionable decisions made in the first act. But what the hell, right? We don't have enough crazy-insane fun R-rated action flicks, says I. This is one of them. Anyway, enjoy McNulty's review!
McNulty here, long time, first time, etc., with a review of Joe Carnahan's follow-up to being fired from Mission: Impossible III, "Smokin' Aces." I'll keep the review short and sweet because to be honest, the trailers that have been released perfectly capture the look and feel of this movie, which is energetic, frenetic, and borderline psychotic. It's "Ocean's 11" on crystal meth. The trailers also tell you everything you need to know about the story (and NO I'm not a Plant handing you a bullshit review, the trailer REALLY IS the movie) A Vegas nightclub act (Jeremy Piven) involves himself with the mob for years, lives the high life, then turns Witness for the Government. While he waits in a Lake Tahoe hotel room for extradition, a big shit Mafia Don puts a contract out on him (specifically calling for his heart). Various bounty hunters and contract killers jump at the chance to whack him, and two Feds (Ryan Reynolds and Ray Liotta), under the watchful glare of their superior (Andy Garcia), race against time to save his life. Pretty much it. Many have said that this resembles a Guy Ritchie flick, and they're not far off, but it's not quite fair to call it a rip-off (although it's safe to assume that fans of "Snatch" and "Lock, Stock" will enjoy this) While Ritchie lovingly gives his characters all manner of quirks and silly names, and sets his chaos to a bouncy, cheery soundtrack, Carnahan more or less plays things without tongue in cheek (an amusing cameo by Jason Bateman as an alcoholic lawyer and a stupid sub-plot about a Ritalin addicted kid notwithstanding). Carnahan isn't quite as clever at twisting the plot around, but what he perfects better than Ritchie is palpable tension, especially in flick's body-dropping third act. His film is designed to keep your stomach in knots from start to finish and succeeds rather admirably, thanks to effective cross-cutting - parties are forever converging on one another, weapons at the ready, soundtrack ominously foreshadowing all hell breaking loose - and an overall feeling of unease and paranoia. If Ritchie's movies are a romp, Carnahan's is a nightmare: It should be said that "Smokin Aces" is incredibly, bloodily, violent and the old saw "Not for the faint of heart" certainly applies here (also not for those squeamish at the sight of someone sitting on a chainsaw, but that's the same crowd, I guess). Gasps and groans of disgust echoed throughout the theater more than a few times. After a particularly savage sequence had ended there was an almost collective exhale of dazed disbelief that I'm sure Carnahan would be very proud of, one of those moments when the audience feels united in the fact that they've all just seen something remarkable in its lunacy. Carnahan has one other obvious inspiration: There's an ill-advised twist toward the end of the movie that owes a lot of debt to "The Usual Suspects" (so much so that "The Usual Suspects" ought to break its fucking legs) complete with a quick-cut montage of earlier scenes meant to give them new levels of meaning. Unfortunately, the steal is so blatant that it's a bit of an eye-roller. Plus the profundity it strives for just doesn't work. It takes a subplot no one really cares about and makes it the center of attention, but the revelation only receives shrugs, now dropped jaws. The cast is huge, so I'll run through them swiftly: Jeremy Piven shows us what happened to Ari Gold after being fired by Vince Chase. And although he has a couple of his patented F-bomb littered, "Is everyone a fucking jackass but Me?!" tirades, Piven's Buddy Israel isn't a very fun guy to be around. Most of the time he's coked-out and depressed. Reynolds plays it straight, which is about as interesting as it sounds, but he's not as woefully miscast as he was in "The Amityville Horror." Liotta and Garcia barely break a sweat playing roles they've perfected over the years, which are tough-guy with weird smile and authoritative, arrogant prick, respectively. Ben Affleck and Peter Berg barely register as a couple of sleazy bail bondsmen. Martin Henderson (from the classic "Torque") isn't bad as a washed up ex-cop. Alicia Keys has screen presence as a sexy assassin, but she's not given much to do other than look sultry; the showier role belongs to Taraji Henson ("Hustle and Flow") as her lesbian partner with a very foul mouth. A guy named Nestor Carbonell, who was apparently a regular on "Suddenly Susan and "The Tick" is pretty effective as a smooth and sadistic hit man known as The Plague. Oh, and Matthew Fox shows up (in a very unfortunate wig) as the hotel's harried head of security (why does this guy always seem like he's on the verge of tears?) Finally, The Tremors, played by dudes unknown to myself, are a trio of batshit crazy brothers who dress like they're in The Road Warrior and have apparently adopted the policy "Shotgun blast and chainsaw-mutilate first, ask questions later." What it all amounts to is a calling card for Carnahan (I know he doesn't need one since he impressed many with "Narc") proving he can handle complicated action scenes, juggle an impressive cast, blow shit up with great giddiness, and basically go insane every 10 minutes with a studio's money. Do I recommend it? Yes. Will it blow you away? If you like this sort of thing, yes, while you're in the theater. It doesn't mean anything, doesn't resonate like a great movie would, but it's never boring and it's often quite invigorating. That was short and sweet, right?