It’s pretty easy to spot the movies that influenced Smokin’ Aces. Take a shaker full of the nihilism of Fight Club, add a dash of Lock Stock and Two Smokin’ Barrels’ crazy visual style and the mayhem of anything by Quentin Tarantino and you get the all-star bloodbath that opens today.
The story is fairly simple, but told in a flashy way. Buddy Israel is a Las Vegas strip magician who, like so many Vegas entertainers before him, gets involved with the mob. His friendship with the goodfellas soon turns to business and Buddy becomes a wannabe wiseguy. Things quickly go south for Buddy and to save himself from jail he becomes an FBI informant. While out on bail he disappears, holing up at a ritzy Reno hotel while his lawyer negotiates a sweet deal for him. While he is in hiding both the mob and the FBI are looking for him. Who’ll find him first?
Director Joe Carnahan brings heaps of style to this crime story, taking pains to introduce each of the characters—played by an all-star cast including Canadian Ryan Reynolds, Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Ray Liotta, Alicia Keys and Jeremy Piven—all of whom are trying to hunt down Buddy. In fact, the set up with its elaborate daisy chain editing that connects one person to the next is the most entertaining part of the movie. When the action finally gets underway the movie becomes just another shoot ‘em up with elaborately staged (and really loud) gun battles. What starts off as an offbeat crime drama soon takes a turn into familiar territory.