The advertising campaign for Smokin' Aces does everything right: flashy trailers, a poster that's eye-catching and displays an impressive cast. I knew it wasn’t going to be a great movie, but I was confident that I would have fun with it, especially since I was going with fellow action movie fan the Worst Ninja Ever. I did not.
I can't speak for him, but I think that Joe Carnahan (Narc) was trying to make a contemporary, mature heist film. I mean, most of the elements are there: good ensemble cast, an object to be stolen (or in this case, person to be killed), and plenty of twists and turns. And he certainly injects the film with a lot of impressive influences and stylistic tics. Unfortunately, it's as though he took all of this and put it in a blender, forgetting the two most important ingredients: a sense of humour, and a sense of direction. Instead of having a complex movie, we have a jumbled mess.
There are over a dozen "main" characters, and the movie does a decent job of introducing them and explaining the plot, but once that's over, the movie stalls. The story's confusing, with more than a few holes, but if you don't care about the plot, then why should the holes matter? Interesting characters are underutilized: I was particularly impressed by Common's performance, but he didn't have enough to do. Other actors putting in good performances were Nestor Carbonell, Ray Liotta, and Ryan Reynolds, but the others ranged from adequate (Alicia Keys) to aggravating (Jeremy Piven) to confusing (Jason Bateman, although that has more to do with his character than his acting). The action scenes are good, but they didn't rise much more above adequacy. And the twist at the end was partly telegraphed, partly out of nowhere, and entirely unsatisfying. Overall, Smokin' Aces is unfunny and tries to make up for its aimlessness with well-choreographed fight scenes that sadly lack punch. If you’re a huge big action fan, maybe it’s worth a watch at the second-run theaters, or a dvd rental, but otherwise, I'd give it a pass.