January 31, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 17°F


‘Aces’ low in bloated mob tale

Writer-director Joe Carnahan’s latest exercise in pop-violence, “Smokin’ Aces,” is truly awful.

Designed only to elicit sophomoric shouts of excitement from the audience, this unnecessarily convoluted film has a hyper-kinetic style of editing and an undeserved tone of smugness that floats through it like a toxic gas.

The story involves Buddy “Aces” Israel, a campy Las Vegas entertainer and small-time hood (played with hammy glee by Jeremy Piven) who becomes the central figure of a gangland hit. He has a seven-digit price on his head and a hotel room full of naked women. Because of mistakes he made while in service to a mysterious head-of-family named Primo Sparazza, Israel has been forced to become a witness for the FBI.

With this being the Quentin Tarantino imitation it is, mayhem must ensue. That million-dollar hit attracts a handful of hit men and hit women, including two blaxploitation rejects (Alicia Keyes and Taraji P. Henson), an odious band of neo-Nazis, a South American torture expert and a silent master of disguise. These assorted archetypes descend upon the nicely furnished hotel in Lake Tahoe, where Israel is holed up in a lavish penthouse suite, and tear it down from the inside out in their quest to take out their target.

There are many forced comedic moments, pyrotechnic blasts, sexist jokes and ill-advised moments of pathos that make up this poor excuse for an action film. Carnahan never finds a coherent tone, and he refuses to let viewers find any semblance of human thought. A myriad of pointless subplots reinforces the notion that Carnahan means only to tell an ugly story about ugly people with cartoonish black comedy meant to alleviate the profound unpleasantness of it all.

Instead of taking joy in the absurdist comedy the film’s premise can achieve, Carnahan ruins his scenes with his seizure-inducing editing and dialogue meant to sound witty. But, unfortunately for the film, he always falls back on expletives and racial slurs for punch lines.

“Smokin’ Aces” was written and directed by Joe Carnahan.

“Smokin’ Aces” received one out of four stars.