Smokin' Aces Joe Carnahan

Smokin' Aces Joe Carnahan
In one of his two commentaries, Joe Carnahan laughs, "this is what happens when a director doesn’t do anything for four years.” And he’s right, cramming every idea he’s had over the last 48 months into Aces’ 149-minute run time. But is stuffing 15 pounds of ideas into a five-pound bag a good thing? Well, Narc, Carnahan’s incisive, gritty debut, was definitely a great thing, which propelled him into the director’s chair for M:I:III and, almost as quickly, differences with star Tom Cruise propelled him out of it. After some serious downtime, Carnahan returned this year with Smokin’ Aces, which tells the tale of Buddy "Aces” Israel (played like an evil Ari Gold, his character from Entourage, by Jeremy Piven), a Los Vegas showman turned mob wannabe turned snitch turned target. Buddy is close to making a deal with the F.B.I. for protection, offering info that’ll bring down what’s left of la Coso Nostra. Since that can’t happen, a number of different characters — red neck assassins, semi-idiotic bail bondsmen, female contract killers, F.B.I. agents, a rubber-faced hit man — descend on Israel, who’s holed up in a Lake Tahoe suite with his posse like he’s Sinatra, and, well, lots of mayhem, twists and chaos hit the fan. However, the problem isn’t that Smokin’ Aces is pretty much absurd, relentless, over the top entertainment laden with jaw-dropping carnage, it’s that the movie never picks a side and plays it. Aces has elements of drama, dark humour, action, revenge and kill-crazy rampage flicks, plus, some of the artistry and grit Carnahan stunned with in Narc, and it has a hell of a cast (the aforementioned Piven, Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Andy Garcia, a scene-stealing Jason Bateman, Ben Affleck). But for all its thrills (and it is entertaining), with the cast and the skill Carnahan possesses, better, not just bigger, more bombastic, is expected. Plus: deleted scenes, more. (Universal)