Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Smokin' Aces (2006) Review:

Like several jobs around the world, only a hand select group of people get the best jobs and are called back frequently to continue their style of work. This type of search goes the same route for those looking to show their skills in the movie making business. Only some people get their name in the trailers as "..., the director of..." or something along those lines. This particular headline also isn't biased on the critical fame of the designated individual. As long as the director to the movie makes the studio a truckload of money, it doesn't matter. Unfortunately, this doesn’t let other possibly qualified people of that profession to excel. The person to represent this group is the man to this film; Joe Carnahan. Heading only six movies in the last fifteen years or so, Carnahan has proven that he has what it takes to be an acceptable action director along with critical flair. It was actually the release of this film that got him recognized to direct The A-Team (2010) reboot. Weird how that happened because this isn't a good film.

Piven just realized the mess of a movie he's in
Joe Carnahan positioned himself as writer/director to this feature and this could be why it just isn't even decent. Being a solo writer/director is not easy. Anyhow, the story is a collaborative character plot where a bunch of assassins head out to kill a once famed magician named Buddy Israel (Jeremy Piven) who decided to turn on the mob that made him filthy rich headed by Primo Sparazza (Joseph Ruskin). While Israel hides in his penthouse suite, F.B.I. agents Messner (Ryan Reynolds) and Carruthers (Ray Liotta), amateur assassins Jack Dupree (Ben Affleck) and his buddies played by Peter Berg and Martin Henderson, a rogue trained assassin Pasquale Acosta (Nestor Carbonell), chameleon killer Lazlo Soot (Tommy Flanagan), Neo-nazi hillbillies Darwin (Chris Pine), Jeeves (Kevin Durand) and Lester Tremor (Maury Sterling) and lastly fem fatales Sharice Watters (Taraji P. Henson) and Georgia Sykes (Alicia Keys) all converge on that point to kill him. With all that said, hardly any of these characters have development.

For a two-hour film one would think some kind of story would occur. Instead, there's a subplot about as to why Buddy Israel needs to be kept alive but it's written as some kind of government plan that is unnecessarily convoluted. Without saying much more, the story will in fact waste the time of the viewer. It completely makes everything pointless. Imagine realizing that after the movie ended, sitting and watching two hours of nothing. Substituted for that is an overstuffed cast of personalities that are difficult to connect with in any way and the list of names mentioned continues. There's also appearances from Common, Andy Garcia, Jason Bateman, Joel Edgerton and more. There's just too much to go around. That's not to say the cast can't act or don't have distinct personalities, they just feel rushed and wedged in. Along with that are unresolved character threads that do not conclude the way they should; they just go missing. There are also inconsistencies with security being a thing. How does someone get into a hotel with a sniper?

There are also comedic bits thrown in but that's a mixed bag. Seeing Alicia Keys being a complete tough girl and spewing manly lines is fun. Then there's also a couple scenes where a knock-off karate kid shows his moves to one of the assassins. By golly is he annoying; why was he even included again? It's just unfunny padding that makes no sense. However, even with all this said, the technical quality of the film still thrives. Action-wise, again director Joe Carnahan proves that’s his genre. He doesn't rely on the shaky camera effect to make action look real. He films real cinematic action and it's very entertaining. The type of action to this movie are just gunfights but its rated R so there's decent blood effects. At some points it even goes beyond that to the point of demented horror action. That's mainly credited to the Tremor Neo-nazi brothers for their weird antics. Speaking of which, Chris Pine had a stupid comical scene. Not hilarious, just enough to create one laugh.

Alicia Keys =O
The director of photography to this picture was Mauro Fiore. Fiore was also the guy behind the camera for Training Day (2001), The A-Team (2010) and Southpaw (2015). All of which these films did not involve much of or if any shaky camera movement and that's commendable. There's no particular scene that isn't well lit nor is it frustrating to follow what happens. Clint Mansell composed the musical score. The scores Mansell has produced for various films range in critical praise but some are movies like Requiem for a Dream (2000), Sahara (2005), Moon (2009) and Black Swan (2010). Mansell's Smokin' Aces (2006) score may only be forty-five minutes, but there are number of solid action and emotional cues. Soft electric guitar and strings highlight the action, which helps get the blood pumping. The softer cues that easily stir the correct emotion use more acoustic guitar, and more drawn out strings in a tragic key. Mansell shows that he is proficient at both ends of the spectrum.

Joe Carnahan is naturally a well-equipped action director and his technical crewmembers hit the mark as well in music and cinematography. The actors can act in their roles but with little development, very few come out feeling likable in any way. The story wastes time and the plot is bloated with too many character threads.

Points Earned --> 4:10

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