SPOILER ALERT !!
Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here.
Carnahan fans have been waiting a while now for his follow-up to NARC, and it seems crazy that it’s almost here.
If you’re a fan, you might want to hop over to CHUD, where Devin Faraci has been fielding questions that Carnahan’s been answering on his very own blog.
In the meantime, let’s see what our own Vern has to say about this film that I’m eagerly looking forward to:
You know what this movie is, it’s a remake of BOBBY. Almost the whole movie takes place in and around this hotel. And you got your huge all-star cast of characters with their various intersecting stories going on. But instead of them all living their lives and making corny speeches not knowing Bobby Kennedy is about to be assassinated, they are all trying to sneak into the hotel to kill Jeremy Piven. And instead of tons of stock footage of Kennedy speeches there is all kinds of fighting and guns. So it’s a reflection of our times. Or a very loose remake. A reimagining.
Let me give a little background so you can compare notes. I was hoping to like this movie, but not predisposed to it. Joe Carnahan wrote and directed, and I’m not a member of the cult of Carnahan yet. I liked NARC okay but to be frankly honest I didn’t understand why everybody made such a big deal about it. I thought the trailer for this one looked insane in a good way, but usually hate these hyperactive showoffy everybody-look-at-me type approaches to filmatism. There was clearly a higher than usual probability of Guy Ritchieness. Or CRANKitude. Or, gulp, DOMINOism. Going in I felt like there was a good chance I would love it and an equal or greater chance that I would want to kill it.
The opening scene has FBI agents Ray Liotta (why the fuck did they cancel SMITH?) and Ryan Reynolds (why the fuck did they cancel BLADE?) in a van staking out an old mafia dude. The dialogue and acting is somewhat naturalistic, the camera is handheld (director code for “gritty crime story and/or police procedural”). It seems serious. But then some giant fonts come on telling us the characters’ names and occupations.
Bad sign, right? Maybe even a dealbreaker, tying to pull that TRAINSPOTTING shit at this late date. But here’s the thing: it’s not a freeze frame. They write the names on the screen BUT THEY DON’T FREEZE THE FRAME! No avid farts either. And they hold the shots for a reasonable amount of time. I don’t think I ever saw this combination of styles before. The editing in this movie does not necessarily appear to have been done under the influence of pixie sticks, it serves the story well. As soon as I realized they had written the names on the screen without freezing, I was sold on the movie. It got me.
Then when they introduced the other characters they freeze framed on all of them. God damn it. But that’s the way things go these days.
SMOKIN’ ACES is a big fuckin mess, but mostly on purpose. The plot for the most part is this: Jeremy Piven plays a mafia-connected Vegas magician named Buddy “Aces” Israel, whose lawyer played by Booger (RAY) is currently putting together a deal for him to turn state’s evidence. The mobster he’s turned on has apparently put a million dollar bounty on Israel, so we follow various hitmen and women who are trying to kill him as well as these two agents trying to bust the mob.
That part I liked. There is also a whole mess of overly complicated backstory and ending revelation nonsense. It’s as convoluted as Steven Seagal’s recent DTV works and explained in big awkward chunks of dialogue, SILENT HILL style. To be honest I was too stupid to follow all of it but I bet if I understood it I would still be against it.
The cast includes (but is not limited to) Andy Garcia as the FBI chief, Common (from the Gap ads) as some guy who works for Piven, the singer Alicia Keys as a hitwoman, Taraji “I dropped the P now” Henson (HUSTLE & FLOW) as her feminist partner, Jason Bateman (TW2) as a hilariously cold-sored loser lawyer, Peter Berg as some guy, Martin Henderson from TORQUE, etc. The whole cast is good with the one exception being Ben Affleck as a bail bondsman who stresses his Boston accent and dresses kind of the way Andrew Dice Clay does now, with a big hat and everything. Honestly I got nothing against Affleck, he is a charming guy and whatever but he is just not convincing as a tough guy (I mean seriously, a bail bondsman?) and his persona is not one you can accept in this role. It’s laughable. But…
If you are already planning on seeing this movie then skip this paragraph because it’s gonna SPOILER all over the best scene in the movie. If you are planning to skip it you can keep reading because I’m gonna bring out the big guns. See, Affleck brings together a couple guys who are gonna make a play for this bounty on Piven. He makes a bunch of tough guy speeches that explain all the backstory and what not. He meets with a lawyer. He comes up with a plan for sneaking into the hotel where Piven is hiding out. In a parking lot, he opens up his hatchback to show his guys the uniforms he rented, exactly like the ones the hotel security wear. Okay, so here’s how it’s gonna go down, he starts explaining. While he’s going through it, an El Camino drives past them, blaring Motorhead or some shit. He ignores it, but then the El Camino starts to back up, so the music gets louder, completely drowning him out. It seems like a movie joke, he keeps telling his plan but we don’t hear it because it’s drowned out by the music. But then machine guns fire out of the windows and fill Affleck and his two accomplices full of holes. The savages responsible are the Tremor brothers, who look and act like they stepped out of ROAD WARRIOR into this movie by accident. After killing these three, one of them takes a sharpie and marks three hatches on his lip, both a body count and a Hitler mustache. He also carves it into the roof of his car for posterity. Then two of the Tremor brothers wrestle each other like pitbulls while the other one plays with Ben Affleck’s corpse, making him mouth that he forgives them and will see them in Heaven. It is one of those rare scenes where for a couple minutes straight you can’t help but think, “Holy shit, am I really sitting in a theater watching this?” Even if you don’t like the movie overall, you gotta admit that this scene is an instant classic. It’s like Samuel L. Jackson’s famous death scene in DEEP BLUE SEA except that this is Affleck, you WANT him to die early and you can’t believe you got so lucky. By the way, thank you for reading this paragraph, those other guys who didn’t read it are a bunch of sissies. Fuck those guys.
Hello again, friend. If you are just joining us from non-spoilerland, you missed my explanation of my favorite characters in the movie, the Tremor Brothers. Since the ’90s there have been alot of horrible movies trying to depict cool hitmen. They have tried alot of different ways (usually involving skinny ties and references to pop culture) but I don’t think anybody has done hitmen who appear to believe they live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Until now. These dirty beasts wear goggles, pads, chains, no shirts, they have obscene tattoos, they carry flares and chainsaws, they roar much more than they talk. We hear that they are redneck neo-nazis, but the way they act they might as well be completely free of politics or knowledge of human systems, neanderthals given access to automatic weapon technology millions of years ahead of schedule. Any time they were on screen I couldn’t stop laughing, and after their great scene that you didn’t read about in that last paragraph there was no way I could completely turn against the movie, even when it wasn’t working.
But more often than not it does work. Everybody gets good bits. Taraji Henson has a really funny rant about women she considers skanks. Jason Bateman is only in about two scenes, but gets the biggest non-Tremor laughs of the movie. He sounds like he was up all night yelling and I don’t believe he ever wears pants in the movie. Piven gets so sweaty and coked up that it makes your heart beat fast just looking at him. There is some funny shit about the rock star lifestyle of a magician. His number two guy almost seems like they cast the real life road manager to some rock band or rapper.
Of course you got the usual problem of a movie like this, there are so many characters that nobody gets to do a full movie star’s amount of business. But because of the actors and to a lesser extent the script, they manage to endear some of these characters to you. I really liked Ray Liotta, Ryan Reynolds, and the pair of hitwomen, I was rooting for all of them to make it out okay. And I think Reynolds deserves special recognition, like maybe a ribbon or a pin or something. Because we all knew Liotta could play a role like this, but Reynolds (the closest thing to a lead in the movie) is still proving himself. I liked him in the not-as-good BLADE movie but here he mostly steps away from that smartass thing he’s so good at and pulls off more of a straight role. Way to go bud.
The movie gets real fuckin violent. Alot of people get shot. There is a huge shootout in a regular sized elevator. The gun sounds are more realistic than usual so it gets pretty tense. We are having fun, there is alot of humor and silly gimmicky characters, even a master of disguise. This is one of those movies where not only are the characters a bunch of arrogant pricks, but the movie itself seems to think it’s hot shit. And there are times here and there where that cockiness is not earned. For example, those freeze frames I mentioned earlier. You have to wonder who they think they’re impressing with that corny shit. What made them think that was gonna be hip in 2006? I mean, TRAINSPOTTING was ten years ago, dude. They did that on both OUT FOR A KILL and SUBMERGED, let’s retire it for a while. There is also one sped up driving scene with cheesy guitars and beats. It’s like an old man wearing an eyebrow ring.
But I think the thing that overcomes all this, that makes the movie work for me, is that when a character dies it’s sad. And sometimes it takes time. People sit next to dying people to comfort them, or worry that someone they care about has been shot in all this mayhem, try to find them to make sure they’re okay. It’s not just “ha ha, his head got blown off.” Even in this over-the-top, jokey story, Carnahan treats his characters as real and his violence as bad. This way the movie may be too cool but it avoids being too cool for school. It still goes to summer school at the very least.
But there is certainly enough in here to annoy many people, and you can’t deny that it has similarities to a LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS type movie and all the horrible shit that came after that one. I wouldn’t say it was very Tarantino because thankfully there is no dialogue that seems to be aping him. Maybe you could argue that the eclectic selection of music on the soundtrack is trying to be like him (although I wouldn’t have expected even Tarantino to put a Skull Snaps song in a movie).
On the surface maybe it’s like LOCK STOCK but I think its soul is more like WAY OF THE GUN. A movie that covers territory others have famously covered, but manages to put its own spin on it, depite being weighed down by its clumsy and unnecessary attempts at a complex narrative. I think WAY OF THE GUN is a very flawed movie but I still enjoy going back and watching it every once in a while. Only time will tell if SMOKIN’ ACES will have a similar future. But is it worth checking out if you like this sort of shit? Lord knows I checked it out, and did not regret the checking out of it. Therefore I must conclude that it was and will continue to be worth checking out.
Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/30913
View the archived Ain’t-It-Cool-News Talkback
Dec. 7, 2006, 7:58 p.m. CST
vern, if you were gay, i’d be your fag hag.
Dec. 7, 2006, 7:59 p.m. CST
It has Oscar winner Ben Affleck in it
How could it be bad?
Dec. 7, 2006, 8:08 p.m. CST
one of those Tremor brothers…
by Son of Batman
played Patrick on Dark Angel, and that show was fucking kickass. He was a mu-tant dog man artist.
Dec. 7, 2006, 8:17 p.m. CST
Way of the Gun flawed?
Wh- wha – what? I don’t think so, my man. I have nothing to back that up with except flustered stuttering.
Dec. 7, 2006, 8:17 p.m. CST
Vern, what did you have against CRANK?
Smokin Aces sounds like fun… but getting back to my subject line, did you not find Crank to be hilarious, crazy, and fun?
Dec. 7, 2006, 8:18 p.m. CST
It’s lonely being the only guy who loves Snatch.
(Apologies for the unintentional Uranus joke, sports ball-as- testicle – style entendre.) That movie was hilarious and full of energy. Self-consciously cool, true, but still a fun movie.
Dec. 7, 2006, 8:22 p.m. CST
I didn’t LOVE Snatch… I liked it.
I LOVED Brad Pitt in Snatch… the role of a fucking lifetime, I thought… I LIKED the rest of the movie. You know what I thought was better? Layer Cake.
Dec. 7, 2006, 8:35 p.m. CST
Way of the Gun…
…has some amazing individual scenes, and anyone who has ever gotten drunk with me has been subjected to the opener with Sarah Silverman’s foul-mouthed tirade, BUT, it is kind of a chore to actually sit through. It’s a “Pay Attention or Don’t Watch”-type movie. So many wordless scenes, so much action happening offscreen. Again, I loved those things the first time I watched it, because it’s all about playing against your expectations. However, unlike Dazed and Confused, or Almost Famous, or The (1st) Matrix, it’s not something I just casually throw in on a lazy saturday afternoon. You have to COMMIT to that flick.
Dec. 7, 2006, 8:35 p.m. CST
“.. written the names .. without freezing.
Then when they introduced the other characters they freeze framed on all of them. God damn it.” That’s a nice detail. I guess it must be what my word-of-the-day email says is a “synecdoche”. I’ve never tried to use that word before. :-)
Dec. 7, 2006, 8:37 p.m. CST
weather or not to go see this…Vern’s “spoiler” scene has me wanting ot see it, but other aspects have me holding back…probably won’t see it, but then again I might…how is that for committing
Dec. 7, 2006, 8:39 p.m. CST
Fine review. The Bobby Hypothesis was genius. On the freeze-framing of names and occupations: It’s cheesy, agreed. However, I liked it in one recent flick, Feast. They seemed to be aware of the cheese factor, and each one was filled with two or three jokes or red herrings about the character’s fate. I remember one guy (SPOILER) whose occupation was Hero, strengths were Kicking Ass, and prospects for survival were Pretty Fucking Good. That was about 2 minutes before he was decapitated and left flopping on the floor like a fish. I found it amusing. (end SPOILER)
Dec. 7, 2006, 9:05 p.m. CST
Weirdest review ever….
by El Scorcho
I still can’t tell if he liked it or not. He basically said that it pissed him off and he hated it, but it was still good.
Dec. 7, 2006, 9:35 p.m. CST
by THE KNIGHT
I’m feeling good toknight
Dec. 7, 2006, 9:45 p.m. CST
Saw this piece of shit a few weeks ago at a screening
by The guy
This movie’s a big old fucking mess. It’s a (very) poor man’s Guy Ritchie movie. It’s over directed, and poorly written.
The characters are all caricatures, none more annoying than this little kid in the third act. He’s only in a couple of scenes, but he could easily have been cut out.
Universal is dumping it into theaters in January, and rightfully so. The crowd I saw it with loathed it. I overheard people talking in the lobby about how stupid the whole thing was.
Especially Andy Garcia’s 5 minute monlogue explaining all the twists in the movie.
Smokin Aces is a major step backwards for Carnahan as a director. He went from BLOOD, GUTS, BULLETS AND OCTANE (piece of shit) to NARC (excellent), to this (not much better than a straight to DVD flick).
Dec. 7, 2006, 10:22 p.m. CST
Freeze Frames and Shit and Wot Not…
Yeah, they kind of have to be cute now or don’t bother. The football trading card ones on the Rundown were fun, but that was really just a sweet gag to set up the Rock’s character. I think what would be more fun would be to have a boxing announcer or trailer guy type voice loudly proclaim the character’s name to the audience. Shit, I bet Tony fucking Scott is going to steal that now I’ve shared it.
Dec. 8, 2006, 2:32 a.m. CST
Man, I liked the premise of CRANK alot but for the most part I hated the execution. It’s definitely not as bad as DOMINO but I thought the constant showoffy split screen/freeze frame/switch to black and white/x-ray to show his beating heart type business was overdoing it. He is doing things that are inherently exciting but then the movie goes so overboard in trying to tell you how excited you should be that it makes the whole thing tedious. Plus, that public rape scene played for laughs didn’t help. But I will give you that there are some good parts in the movie. I really liked the ridiculous ending where he makes the phone call while plummeting from the sky. (and the fact that he had to strangle the guy in mid-air even though he would’ve died when he hit the ground anyway).
Dec. 8, 2006, 2:35 a.m. CST
I don’t think I said it pissed me off or I hated it. But I didn’t like the unnecessary complications to the plot or how they are revealed. It’s a flawed movie but I did like it.
In my opinion.
Dec. 8, 2006, 2:51 a.m. CST
Spoiler warnings, assmonkey
I haven’t seen Crank yet and the bad guy could very well have landed in a mattress delivery truck.
Dec. 8, 2006, 2:49 a.m. CST
Hey, I’m not a sissie
by Franklin T Marmoset
Fuck those guys. Thanks, Vern.
P.S. I am definitely going to see this now, if only for the Tremor brothers. If it is as funny as described, I will enjoy that part very much.
Dec. 8, 2006, 4:29 a.m. CST
For what it’s worth, it is established early on that the movie takes place in a world where it is illegal to transport mattresses by truck.
Dec. 8, 2006, 4:56 a.m. CST
Don’t have anything to say…
Just wanted to vask in the glory that is Vern. What price Vern The Movie?
Dec. 8, 2006, 5:08 a.m. CST
by Franklin T Marmoset
That’s a good question. I read something on Vern’s website (highly recommended, by the way) about Vern: The Movie being in the works. What’s happening with that, Vern?
P.S. I have typed the word Vern too much.
Dec. 8, 2006, 5:48 a.m. CST
WAY OF THE GUN
Was terrible in every single way. I mean, maybe one of the worst films I have ever seen, and that is saying something.
Dec. 8, 2006, 6:08 a.m. CST
Can’t wait to see this…
Trailer looks awesome, and i thought Narc was excellent. Carnahan has a bit of bollocks about him and this film looks like its showing it. Ryan Reynolds deserves superstardom!
Dec. 8, 2006, 7:25 a.m. CST
So, Vern, have you seen Attack Force yet?
I know you’re probably getting that question a lot these days, but I had to ask.
Dec. 8, 2006, 8:18 a.m. CST
“Guy Ritchieness. Or CRANKitude. Or, gulp, DOMINOism”
Dec. 8, 2006, 8:23 a.m. CST
I am firmly against DOMINOism in all it’s forms.
It’s wrong and it hurts my brain.
Dec. 8, 2006, 8:25 a.m. CST
Frankly it doesn’t sound as entertaining
by Spandau Belly
as seeing two regular guys playing catch with fish.
Dec. 8, 2006, 8:35 a.m. CST
Common from the Gap ads?
by The Funketeer
You mean Common, one of the few great and relavent rappers creating music today? Common who has recorded some of the greatest yet underpublicized rap tracks of the past 10 years? You just lost me dude. I didn’t even bother reading your review past that point.
Dec. 8, 2006, 8:56 a.m. CST
by Abin Sur
No, he meant Common from the GAP ads…you’re thinking of Biz Markie.
Dec. 8, 2006, 9:51 a.m. CST
I think I’ll like this…
I must be out of touch but I like showy, slow motion, split screen, freeze frame movies.
I watched Out for a Kill the other night and I thought it was great, mainly becasue it was so bad. loved the bit with So Solid Crew’s MC Harvey where he and Segal made an oath to be best pals for life and then was forgotten for the rest of the movie.
Vern I’m sure I remember you asked for a heads up on any films you might like. Well you need to see a film called Drive with Mark Dacascos in it. I haven’t see it on your site but I’m sure you’d love it.
Dec. 8, 2006, 10:25 a.m. CST
I’d have no problem doing Amy Smart in public
by S-Mart shopper
even if it was in a so-so movie. Crank was however decades better than Transporter 2 but, not as bad as Ultraviolet, probably because I paid to see that piece of shit in a theatre. Way of the Gun is sweet! Sarah Silverman deserves a meat log in that dirty little mouth. Speaking of logs (posted above somwhere too) it’s big, it’s heavy’ it’s wood, so yes much better than Aflac. Common, by the by, is one of the few hiphop artist I can listen to without wanting to kick a nun in the snatch. To sum up, Peter Burg needs to not subtley disappear, he’s a self absorbed cheese infested twat. Thank you and good night.
Dec. 8, 2006, 11:30 a.m. CST
I second the Sleepy Hollow Man’s Drive recommendation.
Sort of, anyway. The script is terrible, full of misguided comic relief stuff that isn’t even coherent, much less funny, but the fight scenes are excellent.
Dec. 8, 2006, 11:51 a.m. CST
Sorry, not interested
by Powers Boothe
I liked most of Narc but after enduring (well made) rubbish like Lucky Number Slevin and Running Scared (the recent one with Paul Walker and the odd looking actress who played Matt Damon’s girlfriend in the overrated The Departed), I really can’t watch another of this type of film.
Whatever happened to Children of Men? Did it get bumped to January?
Dec. 8, 2006, 11:49 a.m. CST
by The Funketeer
No I meant Common. I said “of the past 10 years”, not “of the 80’s.”
Dec. 8, 2006, 11:53 a.m. CST
by Abin Sur
Just messin’ around – Common’s got some skills, to be sure, and he’s definitely a step up from 95% of the (c)rap out there now…
Dec. 8, 2006, 11:53 a.m. CST
Speaking of stylized rubbish…
by Powers Boothe
will Revolver EVER get a USA release? There isn’t even a Region 1 DVD.
Dec. 8, 2006, 11:56 a.m. CST
by Powers Boothe
I’m too lazy to go look…so can someone tell me if he mentions why he dropped out of Mission Impossible 3? Was he fired?
Dec. 8, 2006, 1 p.m. CST
by MC Vamp
Give Vern a break, he was being ironic/sarcastic about credits. He;ll never put the “best” thing about someone’s career, he’ll always throw a stinker out there. Like referencing Jason Bateman with “Teen Wolf 2” rather than Arrested Development. Common’s pretty good though for modern hip-hop, which is now more or less disco with cussing these days.
Dec. 8, 2006, 1:59 p.m. CST
GHOSTBALL/FRANKLIN: It’s been a while since I heard anything about VERN TELLS IT LIKE IT IS (which was the name of the script). Supposedly various producers told him they loved it and would never make a movie like that. The screenwriter is pretty tenacious so maybe he is still trying to get it made. Otherwise it will be a legendary unmade movie like Jodorowsky’s DUNE or Harmony Korine’s MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3.
FAT PAUL: Man, they stopped making screeners for Seagal pictures, and now that it’s out some motherfucker rented it before me. I gotta wait for it to be back in at the video store.
SPANDAU: Good one bud.
THE FUNKETEER: Not sure who that is, I am talking about the guy who collects different hats and sells products for The Gap in the name of peace and love.
SLEEPYHOLLOWMAN: I love OUT FOR A KILL. So far it is the only movie where Seagal plays a professor at Yale. I wish his recent ones were as crazy as that one (or BELLY OF THE BEAST, have you seen that? Amazing.) As for DRIVE, I have seen it a couple times, it is pretty fun but I just don’t get that excited about it. People actually recommend that one to me alot. I think Mark Dacascos is pretty cool though (even if he’s the poor man’s Brandon Lee).
SMART SHOPPER: Just make sure that Amy Smart consents to you doing her in public BEFORE and not AFTER you start doing her, that is the problem I have with Chev “all time worst name for a movie character” Chilios’s activities.
Dec. 8, 2006, 6:34 p.m. CST
you besmirch the bate!
mc vamp, how dare you talk smack about ‘teen wolf 2’, a member of a very elite group of horrific 80s movie sequels that includes ‘zapped again’ and ‘nerds in paradise’!! it takes a lot of hard work to be that bad! just ask elizabeth berkeley.
Dec. 8, 2006, 10:10 p.m. CST
I saw it at a screening a week ago in NY and enjoyed the hell out of it. I spoke with a few people afterwards and they all loved it. I asked them why.
Sadly, they didn’t get enough time in the film. Well, nobody truly did. I could’ve done with the subplot which became the actual plot in the end, but Ryan Reynolds playing straight man was a good ol’ time.
Not a great film… but a great time is to be had while watching it.
Plus Alicia Keys looked rather nice in it.
Dec. 8, 2006, 10:57 p.m. CST
There is always a guy like The Funketeer…
by Bob Cryptonight
It’s amazing! In every review Vern does…some idiot DOESN’T GET IT!!!!!! And then posts about it!!!!!! Excellent, Funkie, excellent! You’ve stumbled into infamy!
Dec. 9, 2006, 9:43 a.m. CST
Oh I get it.
by The Funketeer
but “getting it” doesn’t make it funny.
Dec. 11, 2006, 12:15 a.m. CST
“By the way”
“..thank you for reading this paragraph, those other guys who didn’t read it are a bunch of sissies. Fuck those guys.”
Classic shit there Vern. No wonder I enjoy reading your reviews so much.
Can’t wait to see this movie.
Dec. 11, 2006, 9:04 a.m. CST
Vern – I think you are forgetign a classic
I don’t think anybody has done hitmen who appear to believe they live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Until now.
In answer to that I just have to say two words – Raising Arizona.
If you don’t remember, go watch it, an awsome Nick Cage film. The hitman/tracker chasing him most deffinatly has Lord Humungus as a previous employer on his resume.
Jan. 26, 2007, 7:33 a.m. CST
Maybe I’m getting old…
but this kind of movie just gives me a headache.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.