Holy cow, can you believe it is already October? This year has absolutely flown by, kind of like today. My apologies for the late post with today’s movie but I had to go in to work for a couple of hours today, then there was football to watch. So, when today’s movie came out in theaters, I remember seeing the trailer and thinking it looked somewhat interesting but I never got around to seeing it as there was a lot going on in my life back then. I would eventually pick it up during a Blockbuster run, which would be the first opportunity I have to watch it so let’s see if it was worth the wait as I watch today’s movie, Smokin’ Aces.
The plot: The FBI has been systematically targeting the Mafia, with Primo Sparazza being the last vestige of power withing the Mafia. The FBI have been working on turning Buddy “Aces” Israel, a Las Vegas magician, into an informant. As Agents Donald Carruthers and Richard Messner are maintaining surveillance on Sparazza when the overhear one of Sparazza’s underbosses, Serna, is on the phone talking about how Sparazza has called in a specialist known as “The Swede” and offers him $1 million to bring back the heart of Israel. Serna decides he will go against Sparazza as part of a power grab and will hire two girls that he has dealt with before to take out Israel before hand but worries about how when word hits the streets about the bounty, more people will be going after him. The next day, Jack Dupree, a bail bondsman, is talking with two former cops, “Pistol” Pete Deeks and Hollis Elmore about Israel at the same time that Deputy Director Stanley Locke is discussing Israel’s connection to Sparazza. Locke then starts telling them of the different hitmen that will now be after Israel in order to collect the bounty; Georgia Sykes and Sharice Watters (the two women that Serna had spoke of), Pasquale “The Plague” Acosta (a legendary expert in torture), the Tremor brothers (a trio of neo-nazi speed freaks), and Lazlo Soot (a master of disguise). Dupree has been hired by the law firm that represented Israel to bring him back for his next court appearance. Elsewhere, Locke informs Carruthers and Messner that Morris Mecklen, Israel’s agent, is working with Locke on an immunity deal and he sends them to Lake Tahoe to grab Israel and make sure nothing happens to him. In Lake Tahoe, Israel is nervously waiting to hear back from Mecklen and has Sir Ivy, his head of security, get rid of the hookers he had the night before and order some new ones while Israel yells at Hugo, another bodyguard/hanger on, about semen stains that got on his coat. Elsewhere, Serna’s associate meets with Sykes and Watters to discuss how they will be getting into the hotel and up to Israel’s room while Dupree, Deeks, and Elmore meet with Ripley “Rip” Reed, the lawyer that hired Dupree to bring Israel back for his court appearance. Carruthers and Messner arrive in Lake Tahoe and wait for Locke’s signal that the deal is on and Messner spends the time reading the file on Freeman Heller, an FBI agent that had gone undercover but was killed by Sparazza. Acosta shows up at the hotel, posing as an FBI agent and asks to speak with the hotel’s head of security while Dupree is talking with Deeks and Elmore and shows them hotel staff uniforms he acquired but they are shot down by the Tremor brothers, who take the uniforms and throw the bodies in the lake. At the hotel, Soot has killed someone and works on making a latex mask to use in his disguise when Hugo shows up and Soot kills him and takes his place. Israel is on the phone with Mecklen, who tells him they need to make the deal now or else the FBI will nullify any protection agreement and Israel agrees and says he will give up Sparazza’s group as well as his own crew, unaware that Sir Ivy was listening in. Locke informs Carruthers and Messner and they head over to the hotel to ensure Israel doesn’t make a run for it and Carruthers calls ahead to try and reach security but Acosta has killed the head of security. At the lake, Elmore is shown to have survived the shooting while Carruthers and Messner receive word of Dupree’s death and learn about the hotel security uniforms that he purchased are missing and it is shown that the Tremor brothers are wearing the uniforms to infiltrate the hotel. Meanwhile, Sykes dresses up as a prostitute and plans on infiltrating the penthouse with the other hookers while Watters is set up in a hotel across the street with a sniper rifle to cover her. Carruthers heads into the hotel while Messner heads to the lake to investigate the shooting. Back in Washington, Locke is given a file concerning the Heller case and after he reads it, he is told to contact the Director and he says not to tell Carruthers or Messner. Inside the hotel, Carruthers tries to find out where the security office is and when Acosta, who is wearing a security uniform, is pointed out to him, Carruthers goes to talk to him and has him take him to the penthouse. Meanwhile, Ivy confronts Israel about the deal he made while outside the bathroom, Soot kills the other bodyguard. In the elevator, Carruthers notices Acosta’s fingers and realizes that the security guard is one of the killers and the two end up attacking and shooting each other. Meanwhile, Ivy tries to shoot Israel but Israel throws a playing card at him, cutting Ivy close to his eye and he ends up firing blindly. When security enters the penthouse, Israel has them arrest Ivy for Beanie’s death. Security shuts down the elevators but the Tremor brothers hot-wire the one they are in and have it continue towards the penthouse. In another part of the hotel, Sykes opens up the elevator and finds Carruthers and Acosta’s bodies but she ends up being trapped when Messner shows up. Sykes has Watters help her try and shoot her way out of there but she is shot by Acosta, who is then shot by Carruthers. As Messner and the other agents drag Carruthers and Acosta’s bodies out of the elevator, Sykes manages to close the doors and have it continue towards the penthouse. Meanwhile, Watters sees a hooker, who was killed in the crossfire, and thinking it is Sykes, begins firing wildly into the building until she runs out of ammo. Outside the penthouse, The Tremor brothers kill all of the security guards but Ivy manages to kill Jeeves and Lester Tremor. As Darwin moves to kill him, the elevator opens and Sykes walks out and threatens to shoot him and he quickly jumps into the elevator to escape. As Locke arrives with some more agents, they head to the penthouse to find Soot had drugged Israel and take him into custody. Messner is running up the stairs as Ivy and Sykes are heading down and they have a brief face-off but Sykes says she didn’t kill the men in the elevator and he chooses to let them go and continues upstairs. Watters sees Sykes being carried out of the building by Ivy just as some FBI agents arrive to arrest her and she ends up being killed. Soot manages to escape custody and shed his disguise, then leaves the hotel while Acosta is shown being carried out on a stretcher but he is still alive. Darwin also manages to escape but as he heads to the car park to get away, he is confronted by Elmore, who shoots him. Messner reaches the penthouse and asks to be told what is going on but Locke tells him to head back to Washington for a debriefing. Messner defies orders and heads to the hospital to confront Locke, holding him at gunpoint. Locke shows him Sparazza and Buddy and explains that they are father and son and that the Swede is actually a famed heart surgeon and through a series of unfortunate events, people misunderstood what Sparazza had intended and thus the resulting blood bath ensued. Locke says that Soot was given the contract to retrieve Israel so they could do a heart transplant for Sparazza. Messner is shocked that Locke will allow this but Locke tells him that Sparazza is actually Heller, the FBI agent Sparazza supposedly killed. Heller’s superiors thought that he had gone rogue and had him killed but Heller survived and so the FBI used reconstructive surgery to save his life. Messner is upset about the fact that Locke kept them in the dark and Locke threatens to fire him before telling him to go back to Washington. As Locke goes to talk with the doctor and some other agents, Messner enters the room that Israel and Sparazza are in and locks the door. He then sits in a chair between the two men and unplugs both of their life support machines, then places his gun and badge on the floor and watches Locke and the others try to get in as Israel and Sparazza die.
Smokin’ Aces met with mostly negative reviews from the critics, holding a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “A violent mess of a movie, Smokin’ Aceshas some Quentin Tarantino’s style but not much of his wit or humor.” The movie was the feature film debut of Alicia Keys and Common, both of whom are Grammy winning artists. Smokin’ Aces was a mild hit at the box office, earning $57.1 million off of a $17 million budget and a direct to video prequel was released in 2010.
This was a decent movie but all of the different sub-plots kind of made it a trainwreck. The acting was good, with Ryan Reynolds (Messner), Jeremy Piven (Israel), Ray Liotta (Carruthers) all did good jobs in their roles. I also liked several of the other characters, such as Chris Pine (Darwin), Ben Affleck (Dupree) Alicia Keys (Sykes) and Common (Ivy). The story was interesting but I think the director tried to have too many characters involved in the story, which was meant to distract the FBI from the main objective against Israel but it made the movie a lot more confusing. The way they tried to involve all of the characters and use them actually seemed to waste a lot of time in the movie and if they had fewer characters, the pacing would have been better. As for the twist ending, it honestly didn’t feel like much of a shock because they seemed to set it up early on, then decided to scrap it, then go back and make it an official twist ending. The special effects were pretty good and this was actually a lot bloodier than I thought it would be, certainly bloodier than the trailers indicated. It is a good movie but it had potential to be a lot better.
Rating: 3 out of 5