I've enjoyed Joe Carnahan's earlier movie Narc when it was shown here years ago, a gritty undercover narcotics cops and robbers story with Patric Jason and Ray Liotta as a crazed unorthodox cop. Here in Smokin' Aces, a few of the same techniques are employed as to the presentation and style in which the movie was shot, and it makes this movie such an adrenaline rush.
The movie's title refers to the the wanting to bump off Buddy "Aces" Israel (Jeremy Piven), an acclaimed Las Vegas magician with ties to the Italian mob, and who's about to squeal to the Feds and thereafter vanishing into the Witness Protection programme. Naturally, the mob has a contract put out, and all the bounty hunters and contract killers, from the likes of Ben Affleck to Alicia Keys (yup, in her first action movie), congregate in a Lake Tahoe hotel to try and lay claim to Aces' life.
Standing in their way are two FBI agents Richard (Ryan Reynolds) and Donald (Ray Liotta again, from Wild Hogs and Carnahan's Narc), whose perspective of the case we take on, and journey together up until its revelation, with so many twists in store, that you can't help but to pay close attention. Loaded with plenty of guns and shoot em ups, Smokin' Aces delivers enough thrills and spills for the action crime thriller fans, especially when there are ample opportunities presented due to the presence of a large ensemble cast.
What's interesting is to observe how professional hitmen go about their business, in wheeling and dealing their way, inching as close as they can to the mark. With a deal as hot as this, two or more groups going in at the same time, in a speed race, will naturally set their gunsights on one another, intentionally or otherwise, and it's a blast to see how they wriggle in and out of such situations, in classic black-eat-black scenarios. Having battles on many fronts make this a never-ending roller coaster ride.
But it's not the action that's top notch - violent, brutal and bloody, which is easy to degenerate the movie into a blood sport, but the ending which I thought is a bit unconventional, though nonetheless powerful. It's a sign to the authorities, who are always screwing up, tripping themselves with cock ups and protocols, that enough's enough, and to quit the bullshit talk. I've never been held breathless at an ending for some time already, and Smokin' Aces gets that credit.
Highly recommended to those who like their thrillers take the necessary build up and assembling all the chess pieces, ready to strike at any moment, followed by the unleashing of plenty of mayhem right up until the end. Smokin' hot!