Directed by Joe Carnahan.
Written by Joe Carnahan.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Alicia Keys, Jeremy Piven and Andy
Release Year: 2007
Review Date: 1/30/07
I saw "Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane" a
few years ago, late one night on Skinemax or another cable channel,
and thought Damn, this isn't too bad considering this is truly a
shoestring budget. It was directed by Joe Carnahan, who would
go on to show he had real talent a few years later with 2002's
"Narc", a great crime
film with a great performance not only by Ray Liotta but also
by Jason Patric, who never really impresses me but was solid here.
I thought, if this guy can direct Jason Patric, the sky's the
After accepting and then turning down the
director's nod for the last "Mission: Impossible" film (a few people
turned this job down, strangely), he is finally back with "Smokin'
Aces", which was dumped into January and largely lays limp in the
corner, not for want of style or gunfire but mostly because it is so
strangely average given its wildly eclectic cast. A lounge
magician-turned-gangster, Buddy "Aces" Israel (Jeremy Piven, who
ought to consider NOT playing an asshole in his next film), is
hangin' at a hotel on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, and when word
from the Mob gets out that there's a $1 million price tag on Buddy's
head--and heart--all manner of people take off for the location to
try and collect on Buddy's imminent demise. There's feds (Ryan
Reynolds, Liotta, Andy Garcia), bail bondsmen (Ben Affleck, Martin
Henderson and Peter Berg), hitmen (Nestor Carbonell, Chris Pine,
Kevin Durand, Maury Sterling, Tommy Flanagan), hitwomen (Alicia
Keys, Taraji Henson) and even Buddy's own bodyguards (including
Common) that eventually try to take Buddy down...who's going to be
left standing with the prize?
Lots of people get shot in this one before
the dust settles; in between deaths, we get a lot of posturing on
behalf of our various leads and only occasionally is their dialogue
really funny. Jason Bateman's cameo as a lawyer who hires the
bail bondsmen is one of the few truly funny scenes; outside of that,
it's mostly adrenaline-fueled style and profanity that guides us
from scene to scene. Sometimes, this works--the film takes off
once everyone (conveniently) arrives at the hotel at the same time,
and the bullets start to fly--but mostly, it was surprising how
often our crowd sat quietly, murmuring amongst themselves, seemingly
unenthralled (certainly, THAT can't be a word) by "Smokin' Aces"
where you think you are going to be wildly entertained. It's a
fluff piece, plain and simple, with only a few moments worth
Still, Carnahan has a talent, a flair
for...something, and even though I don't know what that something
is, it was enough to get many of these cast members to take a small
part in a big production. Here's to hoping that his next film
gets us closer to the promise that came after "Narc."
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard