Smokin’ Aces is a mess, but it’s a good mess.
The film is stylishly shot—reminiscent of Tony Scott and Guy Ritchie—filled with solid character actors in quirky roles and it’s chalk full of twists, surprises and impactful action sequences.
On the other hand, the plot is basically ‘It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad, world’ with hitmen, drugs, and sex instead of a whacky race. 9/10ths of Smokin’ Aces is little more than an alibi for the film’s primary clusterfuck. It’s violent, vulgar and overcomplicated, but it’s also a lot of fun.
The film’s premise is that one Buddy ‘Aces’ Israel (played to the hilt by Jermey Piven), a Las Vegas magician turned wannabe mobster, has not only opted to become state’s evidence, but managed to double cross Johnny Law and flee from his protectors as well. Lounging in the penthouse of a Lake Tahoe casino, Israel is praying for a longshot and indulging in a hedonistic bender.
A thing to keep in mind is that Buddy is the film’s Maguffin. And everyone wants Buddy.
The Mob’s placed a bounty on his head, attracting assassins ranging from a mysterious man of a thousand faces, to crazed ultra-violent white supremacists, to a pair of ice cold soul sisters and they’re all out to get Buddy before their peers do.
And then there are the forces of law and order. The FBI provides the film’s nominal protagonists in a pair of agents (played by Ryan Reynolds and Ray Liotta) who are out to collect Buddy before a bullet takes him. There’s also a group of low-life bounty hunters (featuring Ben Affleck) out to grab Buddy for jumping bail thrown in for good measure.
There’s also a cameo by Jason Bateman for good measure.
Although the FBI agents are kinda, sorta, the heroes of the piece, the film gives almost as much attention to the various and sundry oddballs who’ve been attracted to this big pay day. These characters and their competition to all achieve the same basic goal is the meat of the film. And once all the pieces are put in place, the film throws them into a blender and the audience gets to see the splatter filled aftermath.
It ain’t a deep film, and the ending seemed a little forced (kind of a desperate attempt to justify the caranage, I suppose), but it’s a lot of fun.