From the creator of gritty undercover cop thriller Narc, comes a furiously bloody action flick set in the murky underworld of the Las Vegas mafia. When Buddy “Aces” Israel (Piven), a magician and small-time crook, decides to turn state’s evidence against the mob, the head of the Sparazza family puts a $1 million contract on his head.

Fortunately for Aces the FBI hear about the plot and place him into protective custody under the supervision of two agents (Reynolds and Liotta) in his Lake Tahoe hideout. But what they don’t realise, is that Sparazza’s seven-figure offer has enticed an army of bounty hunters, thugs-for-hire, female assassins and double-crossing mobsters out of the woodwork, all with their eyes firmly set on the $1 million dollar reward.

All of the promise shown by writer/director Joe Carnahan in 2002’s realistically gritty, low-budget cop thriller Narc has gone out the window in favour of wannabe-Tarantino / Guy Ritchie gangster nonsense.

As well as unsuccessfully trying to recreate QT’s black humour and milking Mr Madonna’s flashy camera trickery for all it’s worth, Carnahan also resorts to lifting ideas from past classics such as Mission Impossible, The Big Lebowski, and True Romance.

The first half hour is bogged down with reels of confusing exposition as the director attempts to interweave six separate storylines, although the haste he shows in then bumping his characters off at random makes you wonder why half of the 12-strong main cast were needed in the first place.

Admittedly, the second act shows more promise thanks to Carnahan’s visual energy and entertaining cameos from Affleck and Bateman, but the final third is a bloody, literally, mess.

Rather than one almighty final showdown that we had been promised, there are a series of unspectacular shoot-outs that soon border on the tedious.

If you thought the movie was riddled with idiocy then wait until you hear the commentary from Carnahan and editor Robert Frazen which sees the duo attempting to guess the bra sizes of the scantily clad beauties on show.

The five deleted and extended scenes add little to proceedings apart from yet more exposition and gunfire. The alternative – and inferior - “Cowboy” ending follows on in much the same vein, while the “Line-up” featurette takes us through the convoluted plot again, introducing us to each of the principle players and outlining their involvement with the story.

Rounding things off is a 10 minute stunts and effects featurette which contains, yup you’ve guessed it, yet more shoot ‘em up action, yawn.


It is the ludicrous, and highly predictable, final twist that really wrecks Smokin’ Aces.

As Carnahan tries to explain what has just happened at the end of his movie Reynold screams: “Make it make sense!”.

No chance.

Rating: 18
Staring: Ray Liotta, Ryan Reynolds, Ben Affleck, Alicia Keys, Andy Garcia, Jeremy Piven
Directed by: Joe Carnahan
Extras: Commentary, Shoot 'Em Up: Stunts and Effects, The Big Gun, The Line-Up, Cowboy Ending, Outtakes, Deleted and Extended scenes

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