'Smokin' Aces' catches fire, burns out-of-control for two hours

I went into “Smokin’ Aces” expecting a taught, stylized action flick. I was prepared for an hour or two of mindless fun, an entertaining movie riddled with shootouts and explosions. And what did I receive instead? I got an hour-and-a-half of people going up and down in the slowest elevators known to man, followed by twenty minutes of some severely disappointing action.

And that’s not to say that “Smokin’ Aces” is a terrible film, because its not; but it is the absolute epitome of an average one.

The film follows what seems like several dozen characters, including bounty hunters, hit men, Federal agents, cops and bail bondsmen, all scrambling to get to Buddy “Aces” Israel, a Vegas performer with strong ties to the mob. The Feds want him as a witness. The mob wants him dead. And it takes a full 45 minutes for the plot (which is actually a pretty simple, standard crime film set-up) to be established. For an action film, very little action actually takes place in the first hour-or-so.

So what is it that bogs down the plot so relentlessly?

Honestly, it’s the ridiculous overabundance of characters that slows the plot to its laboriously sluggish pace. There’s roughly 13 main characters, very few of which receive any substantial attention (though with Ben Affleck, this may be a blessing in disguise). There’s a couple of FBI agents (Ray Liotta and Ryan Reynolds), some bail bondsmen (Affleck among them), a few hired killers (including Alicia Keys), an assassin (Tommy Flanagan) and a trio of psychotic redneck killers. By the end of the film, over half of these characters are dead, another quarter are wounded and the remainder I couldn’t care less about.

“Smokin’ Aces” spends so much time struggling to introduce each of its characters, that it’s forced to cram the remainder of the plot into a painfully slim timeslot. It feels rushed, underdeveloped and underwhelming. There’s several subplots that feel completely abandoned, including an abruptly introduced lesbian relationship between two hit women, and a completely bizarre set of scenes dealing with a slightly insane old lady and her weird-ass grandson.

After about an hour and twenty minutes into the damn thing, I looked at my watch and thought, “When is the action in this action film going to start? I’m getting sleepy.”

I was stirred from my sleep by a brief, bleak, ultimately disappointing exchange of bullets near the very end, but it wasn’t the type of fun, stylized action I was expecting. In fact, it was more like the slow-motion, opera-music-accompanied crap usually reserved for epic war movies. You know, stormin’ the beach kinda stuff.

There’s a couple funny moments, several enjoyable scenes and a delightful cameo performance from “Arrested Development” alumni Jason Bateman, but ultimately, a film that should have been a bit of violent fun turns out to be a desolate, depressing mess.

Oh, and I managed to guess the inevitable plot twist roughly ten minutes into the movie, which I’m assuming is some sort of record.

Either that or it was just painfully obvious.

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