An ‘Ace’ action movie for the dry winter season

By Stacie Wieland

Buddy “Aces” Israel is holed up in the penthouse of the Nomad Hotel and Casino in Lake Tahoe, swimming in sin and protected by his own personal security detail. This “strung-out, washed-up, has-been, jerk, snitch, seven-layer loser” is the most important formal witness against the mafia the FBI has.

And he has just become the target of some of the world’s most ruthless hitmen, who are hoping for a $1 million payday upon his death.

“Smokin’ Aces” has an instant, magnetic appeal that couples excellent action sequences with a cast featuring a ridiculous amount of talent and star power. If a ticket is purchased for these reasons alone, a good time is almost guaranteed. Those looking for a more substantial story may not find the same enjoyment.

The film starts out strong with a wonderful introduction to each character and a no-nonsense, well-crafted introduction to the plot, accompanied by smart, snappy dialogue that can put a smile on anyone’s face. The truly unfortunate thing – and the only thing to complain about – is that the excitement peaks prematurely in the second half of the film.

An entirely different, albeit interesting tone takes hold of the story, slowing the pace down from a frenzied, manic chase to an introspective crawl. And while the ending is well-executed, it can’t make up for the lost momentum.

With all the big-name, A-list celebrities in this film, one would hope the acting would be no less than exemplary. Luckily, every casting decision is practically perfect and each character is brought convincingly to life. Jeremy Piven is superb as Israel – despite how curiously limited his screen time is – and who knew Alicia Keys could act? She is both astonishingly subtle and realistic.

In short, “Smokin’ Aces” is bloody and bullet-ridden but well-acted and one hell of a ride.