Sunday, January 28, 2007

Smokin' Aces

I'm not sure I was ever hip. Maybe for a week or two when I was in college, but I doubt it. But apparently Joe Carnahan is, and it's certainly gone to his head.

Four years ago, he delivered a very entertaining and unsentimental tale in "Narc," and apparently people noticed. A lot of pople. And Carnahan apparently put every single one of them in the mess that is "Smokin' Aces."

The first sign of trouble comes right away when he feels the need to introduce the main players to us with name tags on the screen. As if he himself lost track of them somewhere along the line.

In the end it didn't matter a lick, because you (or at least I) end up hating them all. I know that's kind of the point, if there really is one, but even in a story as "gritty" as this one there has to be at least one person to cheer for, or else why would you even care?

But back to the story. Jeremy Piven, who has somehow managed to stretch the five minutes I thought he had used up with "PCU" into a lifetime of bad movies and TV, is Buddy "Aces" Israel, A Las Vegas magician who has worked way deep into the mob and is now about to turn state's witness against the big boss. So, we hear at the outset that a $1 million price is put on his head, and an endless series of hitmen descend on the hotel he is holed up in to take him out.

Fair enough. I like stylized violence as much as the next person who owns True Romance on DVD, and Carnahan delivers it with flair. What he fails to deliver, in the 90-minute-or-so build up, is more than about three laughs. Jason Bateman, who gets about three minutes of screen time, is simply hilarious, and Taraji P. Henson, who played Shug in "Hustle & Flow," gets the best lines as the deadlier half of a duo of hitwomen that also includes Alicia Keys. Henson is a real star on the rise.

But that's about the only good things I can say about "Smokin' Aces." It's not that Joe Carnahan wants to be Quentin Tarantino or even, God forbid, Guy Ritchie, as many critics have complained. If he doesn't get a good writer to help him soon, he's not even gonna be Brett Ratner.

But I've gone on long enough about a movie that really doesn't even deserve this much attention. In the last five minutes there's a reveal that's supposed to make it all make sense, but that's not nearly enough to save this bomb. Nothing can.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow. Haven't seen Smokin Ace's but I have to take you to task for your comment on Jeremy Piven. A lifetime of bad TV and Movies? Does that include Entourage for which he just won an Emmy, for the Larry Sanders Show, for Grosse Pointe Blank, for Say Anything, for Singles and even for Judgement Night (which wasn't a great movie, but Piven was at least a bright spot)?

I have heard that Smokin Ace's isn't all that. But I think Piven is and has proven that time and time again.

The truth is and what this movie might prove is that Piven can't carry a movie and should continue with his small roles.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Piper at least when it comes to Entourage. Jeremy Piven makes that show.

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Anonymous said...

I remember the "buzz" that surrounded Narc (which I still haven't seen-- your post reminded me to put it on my Netflix queue and move it to the top). They were writing about it in the New York Times even before it was released. Sounds like Carnahan has fallen prey to his own hype, or maybe just to the pressure to make that type of movie (stylized).

When I see the ads for the Smokin' Aces, it reminds me of the Suicide Kings, which was a good, but not great movie.

For my money, Piven was fantastic as the evil, self-absorbed college president in Old School.

Reel Fanatic said...

I think my hatred of Smokin Aces drove me to exaggerate about Piven, Piper ... You're right that in small doses, he has been in some pretty great movies ... but also some real dogs ... Serendipity, Rush Hour 2 and Two for the Money come to mind, but you're right that I was too harsh with that

Anonymous said...

While I agree that Jeremy Piven can't carry a movie on his own, he does make a good supporting actor, as piper points out. Indeed, beyond The Office, in my opinion Entourage is the best comedy on the air right now. And also in my opinion, it is because of Piven's performance as Ari Gold.

Anonymous said...

Reel Fanatic, I'm going to let your review guide me. I'm going to wait for this to be a rental if I see it at all.

It really is a disappointment because once again I think the trailer looks very cool and from what I've heard the movie just does not deliver.

Mercurie is right, Piven makes one heck of a supporting actor.

Anonymous said...

Piven's Cupid was another TV show never given a chance to develop. Too good for television, as they say.
Smoking Aces looked intriguing but not good enough to be a pay-for flick. Thanks for the heads-up. I'll save it for my more low-denominator movie-going friends, of which I have a few... ;o)

Linda said...

The whole time I was watching Smokin' Aces, I was thinking it will be an awesome rental. I liked it fine, it's just not worth the theater ticket price. I've always liked Jeremy Piven, even in this, and he wasn't given much to work with. Agree with you that Bateman was a riot, and so under-used.

Reel Fanatic said...

I think I'll rent it and watch it again, Linda, if only to see if there's any way all the crazy stuff he threw in there can possibly add up to what he claimed it did in the reveal .. Obviously, I have my doubts

Anonymous said...

Well said -- this was a real disappointment for me as I was in the mood for something stylish and provocative. But it was overkill, in every sense of the word. Good cinematography, some striking moments, but, as you said, not a single character to care enough about to keep us interested in what was going to happen. I wanted to take a bath in antibiotics when I got out of this one.

On the other hand, it had to be better than this week's #1, "Epic Movie." It wasn't screened for critics and usually I'll make the effort to buy a ticket and review it anyway, but this time I decided not to bother. From what I've read, that was a wise decision.

Seeing "The Namesake" later this week -- I have very high hopes for it.

Anonymous said...

I too have not seen SMOKIN' ACES, but the trailers reminded me of the japan-flick SHARK SKIN MAN AND PEACH HIP GIRL...which was tolerable. The main reason I was interested in this film was the three seconds of Jason Bateman in the trailer, aka the loveable Michael Bluth. Nice blog btw...

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks, Kenneth ... Bateman is indeed funny, but he only gets one scene in the entire movie

I can't imagine you missed anything by skipping out on "Epic Movie," Nell .. I made the mistake of going to see "Date Movie," and I've never felt older in my life, so I also definitely just said no this latest one

Anonymous said...

Haven't seen it, but it looks so, so, bad.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I've heard other people say some bad things about this flick as well. Your review convinces me not to see this one. Maybe I'll see it on DVD.

Did you see that "Little Miss Sunshine" was the SAG award for Best Ensemble?? How cool is that?!!

Reel Fanatic said...

I was psyched to see that, James ... I think all the nominees this year are worthy (with the caveat that I haven't seen Clint's Japanese half of his saga) .. I would be happy with Babel, Little Miss Sunshine or The Departed, but you just get the sense that Little Miss Sunshine is the people's champ, so I'm leaning toward it as my pick

Anonymous said...

Smoking Aces is many things. Hip is not one of them. Not that you should worry either way.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen this movie and to be honest, it doesn't look all that interesting to me whether it was getting bad reviews or not.

From the sound of it, it was a bad choice for Alicia Keys to make her film debut.

Reel Fanatic said...

She probably could have done worse, Andrea ... At least with this one, she didn't have to do any actual acting .. she just had to look while holding a handgun, and by that standard she fared just fine

SFChick74 said...

Just proves my theory that movies that come out before Valentine's Day are not good.

Reel Fanatic said...

I think you're right, there sfchick .. The only one that I can see that might make the cut is Mira Nair's "The Namesake," but that might not be coming until the end of the month