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Paul Greenwood

Published January 11th, 2007 | by Paul Greenwood

Smokin’ Aces Review

Classification: 18 Director: Joe Carnahan Rating: 2.5/5

It’s always a disappointment to find out you’ve been misled by a trailer. Smokin’ Aces promises a balls-to-the-wall bullet fest but delivers a talky, over complicated, over populated curiosity. What should have been a straightforward cops and gangsters thriller ends up being not merely sub Tarantino but sub Lock Stock.

Las Vegas showman Buddy “Aces” Israel (Piven) has gotten too cosy with the mob and the FBI are ready to bring him in to testify. All they need to do is go to his hotel room and pick him up, but once word gets out that there’s a $1m price on his head, every assassin and bounty hunter in town begins to zero in. And they’re all out to smoke Aces.

OK, it’s not a disaster, but it should have been so much more. The gunplay is fast and ferocious, if not quite as constant as the trailer would suggest. But it’s also not staged with any great art, the big showdown failing to give a sense of geography and consequence, even if the bullets do hit home with authority.

The biggest joys come from the leftfield casting (everyone’s favourite wiseguys, Liotta and Garcia, as feds – who’d a thunk it?) and the interplay between them. Reynolds and Liotta make a good double act, Keys has an assured debut and Glasgow’s own Tommy Flanagan is menacing as a hitman with a penchant for Mission: Impossible style masks. Piven is a problem though – not the performance but the character. Israel is such a scuzzball that you’re never really sure if you want him to get shot or not.

Tragically, it all comes grinding to a halt in the last quarter of an hour, as fun is abandoned in favour of serious emotion and densely plotted revelations. It’s the equivalent of being made to eat a plate of broccoli after you’ve had dessert and it belongs in another movie. Passable, but far from satisfying, you should hang off for Clive Owen’s Shoot ‘Em Up instead.


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