Looking back through the history of film, one can easily notice the evolution from methodical films of the past to the new fast-paced pictures of today that cater to the instant-gratification needs of today’s youth.”Smokin’ Aces” epitomizes this growing trend even when tackling the seedy world of the mob, a genre that has, in the past, produced extremely long, meticulous films such as “Goodfellas” and the genre’s flagship “The Godfather.”
While “Aces” is a fast-paced step away from the traditional movies about La Cosa Nostra, it succeeds in producing a realistic portrayal, interspersed with situational comedy, of a world most likely unseen by the general public.
Starring Ryan Reynolds (“Van Wilder” and “Just Friends”), Jeremy Piven (“Two for the Money” and TV’s “Entourage”) and Ray Liotta (“Goodfellas” and “Narc”), “Aces” is the story of Buddy “Aces” Israel, an extremely strung-out and coked-up Las Vegas magician-turned-mafiosa-turned-snitch. There is a bevy of ultra-skilled assassins intent on wrangling him in hopes of scoring a $1 million bounty placed on his head by Primo Sparazza, the mob boss he is preparing to turn on in exchange for immunity from the FBI.
“Aces” also features Ben Affleck (“Jersey Girl” and “Daredevil”) and singer/songwriter Alicia Keys. It was written and directed by Joe Carnahan, who also wrote and directed 2002’s “Narc,” which delved into the world of narcotics crime control.
“Aces” hearkens back to the grand old days of mob films in which viewers are privy to the extravagance of the lifestyle coupled with the sense of loyalty, distrust and ruthlessness associated with the mafia.
But where the film slightly falters is in its expositional finale.
After nearly 90 minutes of seeing an onslaught of hit attempts on Israel, in which about half of the credited cast, as well as a number of dispensable police officers, meet their demise, the filmmakers try to surprise viewers by presenting them with twists that come out of nowhere.
Even with the seemingly over-the-top comedic elements of a rather gruesomely cold-blooded film, the twist of Israel’s connection to Sparazza and the FBI’s real association in the preceding events is the first moment in which a viewer truly might question the reality of the film.
But this ending doesn’t diminish the enjoyment this film can produce for its viewers. By combining gratuitous violence, gore and nudity with an honest-enough look into the mafia, “Aces” ensures fans of the genre that the mob film is still alive and well, a fate not many of the characters in the film face.
4 our of 5 stars