When a Las Vegas big time magician called Buddy Israel (Jeremy Piven) thinks he has it all, he then decides to turn big time Mafioso. After an unsuccessful heist that turns our wannabe gangster into a snitch, Israel decides to testify against the mob. Under FBI witness protection in the lavish Las Vegas penthouse hotel, FBI agents Richard Messner (Ryan Reynolds) and Donald Carruthers (Ray Liotta) are assigned to protect him. However when the mob put a one million dollar hit on Buddy Israel, contract killers all over the country want a piece of the magic. From master of disguises and impersonations Lazlo Soot (Tommy Flanagan), two hired hit-women Sharice Watters (Taraji P. Henson) and Georgia Sykes (Alicia Keys), mercenary and torturer Pasquale Acosta (Nestor Carbonell) and finally a psychotic neo-Nazi trio called Tremor brothers, Darwin (Chris Pine), Jeeves (Kevin Durand), and Lester (Maury Sterling). Four different groups of killers, one reward and one location, there is certainly plenty of chaos, carnage, mayhem, blood, guts and tears in Smokin’Aces.
Written and directed by Joe Carnahan, this American crime film is certainly an action film that would satisfy the empty void for the action junkie. Carnahan right away sets the plot with multiple scenes that right away engage in a fast paste tenor. With FBI briefings with Israel’s lawyer Morris Mecklen (Curtis Armstrong) and secret meetings with contract killers discussing they’re plans to go in quietly or guns blazing. You just know the ticking time bomb of bloodshed and devastation is about to go down at the five star Las Vegas hotel. As we get closer to the deadline we begin to realise the FBI is not only outnumbered, but their out gunned and trapped in the middle of a contract killing reward war. It does seem to drag on with countdown but trust me, the dazzling massacre display of contract killers doing what they do best is certainly a parade of pandemonium violence.
One of the most interesting developments is Buddy Israel’s journey from showbiz king, to crime kingpin then finally to manically depressed, coked-up snitch. It seemed that our magician took the same Frank Sinatra route but went in deeper with the mob and preferred to have his own little family. However continuous parties with hookers, coke and a failed life of crime left Israel realising it was all just a lie. Just like his illusion to fool the crowd no matter how great of a magician he may be “but seeing behind this motherfucker and knowing... that it's all bullshit.”
Carnahan certainly does mix a variety of genres into Smokin’ Aces from Martin Scorsese Goodfellas (1990) mob crime drama to a violent disarray of a Quentin Tarantino style of Reservoir Dogs (1992). With a plot that constantly twists every twenty minutes that leaves us with an unpredicted ending. It certainly is not the next Departed or Pulp Fiction but it is certainly a stylish action thriller with plenty of characters that do some serious carnage.