CrankyÕs Flickershow Reviews

By Neil Richter

SmokinÕ the Audience


       Sometimes, a film gives you a feeling unlike any other. ItÕs very specialized and hard to describe. Recently, I can only think of a few examples of when this has happened. One was when I watched (part) of Moulin Rouge. The other was when I limped through all two hours of Terry GilliamÕs Tideland. Well, with this one, I now have three. The specific feeling that IÕm referring to is when you sit down, the movie starts, and the director immediately starts puking all over you. IÕm not talking about a dainty little hiccup. IÕm talking about a full body heave that lasts two hours. IÕm talking about a deluge so all-encompassing that not even an umbrella can keep you dry. IÕm talking about the contents of every collective gutter on Bourbon Street. IÕm talking about SmokinÕ Aces. Director Joe Carnahan vomits up every clichˇ, every camera trick, every show-offy gunfight, and every blood-packet in Hollywood. Its as if he feared he would never make a film again after this one, so he might as well throw everything thatÕs been stewing in his brain at the screen all at once. Two female assassins, but wait, theyÕre also lesbian lovers—you got it. Body armor wearing, chainsaw wielding skinheads—check; Van Wilder growling to an obviously constipated Andy Garcia to Ōtalk to him like a manÕ—check. Jason Bateman (of Arrested Development fame) running around with herpes sores on his lips whining about his lack of male endowment—roger thatÉalthough I have to admit that particular cameo was pretty funny. Jeremy Piven with a perpetual coke moustache—right on. You get the picture. IÕll avoid any kind of a major plot synopsis. Some guys want to kill another guy but heÕs an important guy so other guys want to stop them, then thereÕs a plot twist, then somebody gets shot, then something blows up. Pretty standard. When this sort of sado-porn gets put in the right hands, the results can often be wonderful. This yearÕs best picture winner, The Departed, is a perfect example. However, Joe Carnahan, fresh off his successful sophomore effort Narc, drops the ball. Well, he doesnÕt so much drop it as throw it at the floor and stomp on it until all the air drains out. Yeah, itÕs all flashy and shiny and new looking, but thereÕs wires hanging out the edges and seams ripped open all over the place. Half the plot threads havenÕt even been wrapped up by the time the end credits roll. The manÕs got style, nobodyÕs going to fault him for that. All he needs is a teensy bit of restraint. Now now, IÕm not faulting him for filming a man accidentally sitting on a running chainsaw. All IÕm saying is, you canÕt keep a film at that level of intensity for the entire running time to try and cover for shoddy storytelling. When one of the nastiest verbal exchanges in the film (involving fecal matter and cereal) is directly stolen from another film, you know youÕre in trouble.

       Hey, I love a well-filmed gunfight or a profanity laced smackdown as much as the next guy, but we canÕt just have the frosting without the cake, can we? ThatÕs all SmokinÕ Aces is when you get down to it, a big olÕ tub of sickeningly sweet frosting. Once youÕve got a tummy-ache from all the jazzy editing CarnahanÕs hurled down your throat, thereÕs still another punchbowl full of the noxious stuff left. ItÕs just too much. ThereÕs not much more I can say about it. I realize that there is a certain demographic that gets off on this sort of thing, and this particular film will probably suit them just fine. You know who IÕm talking about, the early teens-to twentysomethings who giggle like schoolgirls every time they see the onscreen blood start to flow. I canÕt fault them too much. At one time I myself most likely gave in to such baseness. However, weÕve grown up. Our tastes have become refined. We now find that on-screen violence goes better when blended with such things as plots and characters.

       Rent at your own risk.