With The A-Team hitting theaters next Frriday, I figured I would take a look at Joe Carnahan‘s previous actioner Smokin’ Aces. In the wake of Guy Ritchie’s Snatch, it seemed like writer/director Joe Carnahan wanted to try his hand at a film involving a huge cast with interweaving plots and laced with criminal stylings. This may have proven to be too ambitious as it just didn’t come to fruition as I had hoped. Along the way Smokin’ Aces did have a fair amount of good things going for it but overall, this was a let down.
There were a number of things that just didn’t work and number one on that list is the pace. Smokin‘ Aces was a bit too slow and matters weren’t helped by the resulting lumbering plot. Even as they were introducing all the players, for what would seem like a brainless flick, there was a lot of information flying off the screen. Really, it was like information overload. I guess a good movie dazzles you up front and then explains things better later on, but I’ve seen this 4 times and I still don’t even remember most of the character’s names. Further the plot is forgettable and it’s not until the recap at the end that I remember just what was going on. That’s not a sign of paying too little attention, that’s a sign of giving the audience too much. Sure it might make sense on paper, but editing is essential in anything and this could have used a lot more.
As if they realized the movie might be confusing (or boring) to some viewers, Smokin’ Aces starts to wrap things up pretty fast. In fact the film begins to culminate in one impressive shoot out after another, but it’s all nothing more than a stylized action fest. Now I like action but the movie didn’t really get you behind any one character so frankly, even though those were high energy, I really could care less about anyone on-screen. Characters were one-dimensional, conversations were witty at times but the time was never spent to get you invested in anyone, let alone the “10 pounds of sand in a 5 pound bag” of a plot.
I found myself enjoying side characters, as well as the cameos, as they were more interesting than the main ones. Jeremy Piven wasn’t very entertaining, Ray Liotta was a shadow of his former roles and Andy Garcia seemed to phone in his part. The only actor I wanted to follow was Ryan Reynolds and maybe Common (of all people, right?). But when Ryan didn’t exhibit his signature style of humor that let him cut up the scenes, it was yet another let down.
Yet the one shinning element which really helped sell this movie, especially the ending, is the music of Clint Mansell…man is that guy good. His work continually impresses me and the track used for the films closing scene, titled “Dead Reckoning”, is nearly as memorable as his themes for Requiem for a Dream and Moon. In fact his score helps the movie’s slow and boring bits and almost makes up for what didn’t work in the film…but not quite.
For a so-called “shoot-em-up” flick, it delivered the goods but way too late for my liking. Ultimately, especially considering the way it was advertised, this really fell short. Smokin’ Aces had a little more sophistication than you’d expect from a film called Smokin‘ Aces, but it ultimately led to a sluggish pace that barely got off the ground. The heavier story could have benefited from editing out a few characters and some plot.
However there are some memorable characters (side and main) and the fact that this movie got such an all-star cast is kind of a feat in itself. There’s some fun to be had and you may just be surprised at who you’ll see pop up on scene. Aces hinted at action but it all came too little, too late and the their “slow boil” approach is about as much fun as waiting for an egg to boil, then watching it explode right before you are ready to eat it. Still on first viewing is has some attention grabbing scenes. But on repeat viewings it just seems tired. Hell, I own this and I have trouble giving it a 3/5…hey, maybe it’ll be better on TV or with a 6 pack.
Here’s hoping The A-Team is edited much better for pacing and delivers the action goods as promised.
G-S-T Ruling – 3/5
G-S-T Seal of Approval – PENDING