Smokin’ Aces is a vastly underrated film, in my very humble (and very handsome) opinion, an action film featuring a giant ensemble cast (including Ben Afflect, pre-Kirk Chris Pine, Jason Bateman, and loads more) and a plot that takes so many twists and turns that are both excellent and completely ridiculous (in a good way) at the same time. The general gist of the film is this: Buddy Israel (Jeremy Piven, in one of his few good movie roles) is a drug-addled Las Vegas performer who has decided to testify against the Sparazza mob family, to whom he has ties. In retaliation, the family puts a one million dollar bounty on Israel’s head, which brings out hitmen from all different walks of life looking to collect. FBI agents Messner (Ryan Reynolds) and Carruthers (Ray Liotta) attempt to get there in time to stop this from happening, but there is more than meets the eye with the whole situation.
Simply put, it’s a fun B movie, an action film with a great cast and a decent budget behind it. The greatness lies in the bounty hunters themselves; they each have their own personality and their own look and their own quirks. They are defined, and you know how each of them works. It’s almost like The Warriors in a sense, but more based in reality. Everyone does a great job in the film, with Reynolds completely shining in the lead role. We all know how badass he is now, but back then he was still barely getting roles in movies that weren’t of the romantic comedy variety. He takes this role and runs with it, playing an FBI agent better than most actors ever do. Andy Garcia, who plays Messner and Carruthers’ boss Stanley Locke, is perfectly slimy, but he also sports a Southern accent that would have been better left off-screen.
The action is excellent, and you find yourself glued to the screen, eager to find out who will get the one million dollar bounty, or if they will even get the chance to. When things eventually hit the fan, it’s bloody, it’s hectic, and it’s completely engaging.
Smokin’ Aces is a movie that should have been more popular, and it has found more of a life in its post-theater run, but it deserves more. If you love action films, this is a must-watch. Not only is it bloody and intense, it also presents a plot that will keep you enthralled until the very end.
Smokin’ Aces is presented in full 1080p and is displayed in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It certainly looks good, but at the same, I expected more out of this Blu-ray release. At times, the film looks really grainy and seems like it wasn’t transferred all that well. For a film like this though, it actually kind of works and adds to the B-movie feel, but I’m sure it’s not an artistic choice.
The audio is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and in 2.0 for French and Spanish dubs. The audio is the best part of the experience. With a surround sound system, it sounded beautiful, as if I was sitting in a movie theater. The dialogue was crisp, the sound effects pitch perfect, and I could even hear background sounds that I would have missed had I watched this on a normal DVD.
If you’re a Smokin’ Aces fan, the special features should prove to be very interesting. It features an alternate ending, plus 18 minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes (although the deleted scenes should have been left in the dark — they aren’t too interesting). The usual feature commentaries are also included, with both the filmmakers and members of the cast, and if you want to get to know the bounty hunters a little bit better, there is a featurette on them too.
Smokin’ Aces is always a fun watch, and is worth the Blu-ray for the sound quality alone. Although I have definitely seen films that take more advantage of the technology (especially in the visual sense), this is recommended for your Blu-ray library.
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