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Movie Review

Vegas magician Buddy "Aces" Israel is a wannabe gangster who's finagled his way into a mini-fortune. He's caught by the FBI for some "minor" crimes, but his worth becomes invaluable when he agrees to turn state's evidence against La Costa Nostra—the dominant Vegas-based mob group led by Primo Sparazza. While Aces' manager tries to work out a deal for immunity with the FBI, the feds place the sleazy illusionist under protective custody in a Lake Tahoe casino penthouse.

Knowing that Aces is likely to snitch, Sparazza immediately puts a $1 million hit on him—and (literally) his heart. The announcement attracts a lineup of hired-gun lowlifes like moths to a flame, all of whom end up in a race to "clip" the target. (None of them know any of the others are involved.) There's a trio of Vegas bounty hunters hired by a showbiz/mob attorney; a pair of girl-power vixens who plan to use seduction and really big guns to work their way in; three neo-Nazi brothers with a penchant for chain saws; a master of disguise who works solo; a high-crime bill collector of sorts who's owed money by Aces and who's known for his torture techniques; a bodyguard of Aces' fed up with playing second fiddle; and a mystery figure known only as "The Swede."

Seven potential assassins. Two FBI agents assigned to keep Aces alive. One foul movie.

Positive Elements

Agent Messner, one of feds protecting Aces, shows obvious care for his partner, Agent Carruthers, even risking his life to assure his safety.

Spiritual Content

Aces looks to the sky and yells "F--- you" to God. Then, in the face of apparent death, the camera pans in from above as he says, "Forgive me," though it appears he's speaking to one of his bodyguards, not to the heavens. A perverted mob attorney jokes to a group of goons about sarcastically thanking God for his small penis and hereditary alcoholism. He also says he's praying that Aces "puts up a good fight—rape him if you have to."

After gunning down a fellow hired gun, one of the neo-Nazi brothers pretends to have a conversation with the assassin's corpse (he moves his mouth and eyes) about the afterlife. "Up here in heaven it's beautiful," he says, impersonating the dead man. Then, after asking if he really thinks he'll go to heaven, the skinhead responds, "Then I'll see you up there someday." After attacking the hotel's security head, a skilled hit man tells him, "Don't make this face the last face you'll see because heaven may hold it against you."

Sexual Content

One of the many coked-up prostitutes lying around the casino penthouse wears only a G-string, and her breasts remain exposed throughout a couple of scenes. A large picture in the background of a room captures a woman peeling off the bottoms of her bathing suit and showing most of her backside. Several prostitutes and "groupies" don ultra-revealing bathing suits and dresses.

Various characters use extremely vulgar language to reference ejaculation, oral sex, masturbation and intercourse. A man is shown wearing women's undergarments. A hyper young boy on Ritalin gets an erection while showing off his karate moves. (The camera zooms in.) His father is said to be in jail on sodomy charges.

It's implied that one of the two female hired guns is sexually attracted to the other. While her partner puts on a skimpy outfit to play the part of a prostitute, the would-be lesbian ogles her through a gun scope. (We get a close-up of her pushing at her cleavage and repositioning her top.)

Violent Content

In Quentin Tarantino fashion, director Joe Carnahan apparently went by the modus operandi that more blood and violence equals more entertainment. Prior to the showdown at the penthouse, we get plenty of nauseating visuals: Entire crowds get gunned down with extreme realism; men have their backs, chests, necks and heads riddled with bullets from short range. Blood sprays, splatters on walls and dribbles from fresh bullet holes. One man shoots his victim, drags him into a room with other bodies, then almost immediately uses his face to create a plastic mold. Another stabs a security officer after hitting him across the head. Scuffles break out between thugs and prostitutes.

There are even brief—though still graphic and disturbing—shots of Hostel-like torture. One man appears to have his eyes gouged out. Another is shown having his genitals shocked and possibly removed. (We see his naked body from the back hanging upside down and writhing in pain as the electricity is applied.) And apparently to add effect, the man responsible for all this is shown chewing his own fingertips off in a prison cell while naked.

Then, once Smokin' Aces finds all its key players only yards away from its central character, sheer chaos erupts. A face-off between an FBI agent and a solo assassin in closed quarters ends in a simultaneous barrage of gunfire, a long blade piercing one man's hand and plenty of blood. The neo-Nazis take a chain saw and machetes to various enemies, while setting others on fire. And though we don't see explicit shots of limbs being hacked off, we do watch as a man gets his leg chewed up by the running saw while also being shot repeatedly in the same area. A high-powered weapon sends several men literally flying across the room upon impact. It also essentially destroys an entire area of the hotel.

Even more graphic—yes, it's possible—the camera zooms in several times on a man whose fingers have been severed. At various times the bloody hand serves to draw both gasps and laughs from the audience. When the victim finds a man who's responsible for his injury (as well as dumping him and his friends in a lake to be left for dead), he opts for revenge and shoots the unarmed man.

Crude or Profane Language

Pervasive. More than 130 f-words and about half that many s-words are uttered in various forms. God's name is abused a dozen times, mostly in combination with "d--n"; Jesus' gets profaned a half-dozen times. Close to 100 other profanities, including obscene sexual terms round things out. A young boy gets in on the act by continually assaulting a wounded man with foul language. The n-word also gets a hefty workout from various African-American characters. Several villains make obscene hand gestures.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Cocaine and other drugs abound in Aces' penthouse, and we frequently watch him snorting coke and getting high. The prostitutes hanging out in the hotel suite are also said to be high, and it's played off as funny when a stoned-out-of-her-mind woman accidentally stumbles into a glass case. Still, on some level, the movie seems to be showing such scenes—and ones in which we see Aces' appearance deteriorate within a matter of moments—to underscore the pitiful, unattractive nature of hard-core drug abuse.

No such luck with other vices such as cigarettes and alcohol, however. Concerning these, the film abounds with characters puffing away and downing hard liquor. Vodka, beer and other ales are all consumed, used in a toast or simply shown.

Other Negative Elements

One of the neo-Nazi brothers urinates on the side of his own car. While on a surveillance assignment, Agent Carruthers comments about Agent Messner drinking the urine he's stored in a bottle.


"Make it make sense!" Those are the words of Agent Messner as he sorts through—along with the audience—the casualties and destruction left in the wake of a climactic, bloody showdown. They're just as appropriate in assessing the depraved lengths writer/director Joe Carnahan goes to in telling a convoluted and ultimately pointless story that stylistically mimics the Kill Bill and Ocean's Eleven movies.

Lots of crooks. Lots of subplots. Even more senseless, unwarranted violence, sex, language and drug abuse. And in the end, not a single person we really like, much less care about. Then again, it doesn't take long to figure out that Smokin' Aces is less about its ensemble of skuzzy comic-book characters and more about the guns, guts and gore they leave behind. "They are immoral, ruthless and without restraint," says one fed of the cluster of thugs. They and the movie they're in.

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Jeremy Piven as Buddy "Aces" Israel; Ryan Reynolds as Richard Messner; Ray Liotta as Donald Carruthers; Andy Garcia as Stanley Locke; Ben Affleck as Jack Dupree; Common as Sir Ivy; Alicia Keys as Georgia Sykes; Peter Berg as "Pistol" Pete Deeks; Jason Bateman as Rip Reed; Matthew Fox as Security Super Bill; Wayne Newton as Himself


Joe Carnahan ( )


Universal Pictures



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Marcus Yoars

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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