Monday, 19 December 2016

Smokin' Aces (2006)

The four words that sum up this film for me are "Quentin Tarantino fan fiction".

Quirky opening conversation?  Check.
Ensemble cast of recognisable but not big money names?  Check.
Many different agendas working at cross-purposes? Check.
Over the top characters?  Check.
A whole lot of swearing and highly stylised, gory violence?  Double check.
Early Tarantino's ability to make it all work?  Ehhhhh.

Mob boss Primo Sparazzo puts out a hit on one Buddy 'Aces' Israel.  Israel's a stage magician who carved out a niche in organised crime.  With Sparazzo out for his blood - the kill orders specifically call for his heart to be carved out of his chest - Israel is now hiding out in Lake Tahoe while making a deal with the FBI to turn state's witness.

The scent of a million dollar bounty brings out a host of potential claimants.  There's a master of disguise, a pair of street-savvy hitwomen, a stone cold torturer known as 'The Plague', and a trio of neo-Nazi rednecks.  Finally there's the mysterious 'Swede' Sparazzo has apparently brought in specially for the job.  Oh, and let's not forget the FBI themselves - whose agenda may be more complex than it initially appears - and a group of bail bondsmen who are also looking for Israel.  Put it all together and well, a whole lot of people are going to dead, often in spectacularly gory fashion.

Smokin' Aces certainly has some of the style of a Pulp Fiction, but it always felt a little bit fake and forced to me.  I suspect a big part of the problem is pacing.  The "setting things up" stage of the film drags on rather too long, and once the action starts, the film spreads its attention too thin, which rather undercuts any momentum it tries to develop.

A lot of talented people appear on screen in this film, but the result is less than the sum of its parts.

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