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DVD Review: Smokin’ Aces 2 – Assassin’s Ball

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Back in 2006, the movie Smokin' Aces introduced us to a world of very unique assassins. In it, wanna-be mobster and magician Buddy "Aces" Israel (Jeremy Piven) decides he can run his own mob, which doesn't sit well with his former mob ties. They put a million dollar contract on "Aces", who squeals to the FBI to get their protection.

Every hit man or woman willing to take the contract shows up at the casino in Lake Tahoe where the FBI has "Aces" for safekeeping, which causes immediate carnage.

I'll be the first to admit that I didn't like the original, even with the amazing cast. Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Wayne Newton, Piven, Ben Affleck, Peter Berg, Andy Garcia, Alicia Keys, Chris Pine… the list goes on. But I found the story to be a total mess even with all the unique characters.

Now in 2010, we have Smokin' Aces 2: Assassin's Ball. This time, I thought there was a framework and a story I could wrap my head around.

Walter Weed (Tom Berenger) is a mid-level FBI analyst nearing retirement who suddenly has a three million dollar contract on his life. When the FBI gets wind of the contract, they put him under protective custody while they try to figure out why this guy is the target.

There are a few familiar actors, such as Tommy Flanagan as hit man Lazlo Soot, Ernie Hudson as FBI agent Anthony Vejar, and Vinnie Jones as assassin Finbar McTeague. But I was largely unfamiliar with the cast. That didn't stop me from enjoying this intriguing movie.

Where the first film failed to capture my interest with its frenetic action, Smokin' Aces 2 manages to present a unique set of characters while keeping the plot and story relatively linear with a satisfying ending.

Within the bizarre array of assassins, each has his or her own unique signature traits. There's Lazlo Soot with his penchant for taking molds of his victims' faces so he can later use them as masks; Finbar McTeague with his love of power tools and torture techniques; the beautiful and deadly Ariella Martinez (Martha Higareda) with her knowledge of poisons. And the family of crazies who strap bombs onto midget clowns fired from a cannon… did I mention they were crazy?

When you add the great story about Weed and the detailed underground vault in Chicago where the FBI team attempts to keep him safe, there are many levels to this movie to keep you entertained. As the team escorts Weed into the vault, I couldn't help but think of the many episodes of Cities of the Underworld where they explore hidden realms beneath the ground.

The gun battle in the jazz club is also more realistic than many others I've seen in other films. Real-life gun battles are often brutish, short, and bloody events. And when you have as many guns being fired as are fired in the club, things get messy quickly.

The DVD includes many interesting extras in addition to the rated and unrated versions of the film.

Most of the available deleted scenes found their way into the unrated version but the gag reel is less than exciting. A few laughs, but not much more. However, the rest of the features present some interesting points of view about the film:

"Behind the Scenes with Joe Carnahan" allows executive producer Joe Carnahan, producer Mike Elliott, writers Olatunde Osunsanmi and Olumide Odebunmi, and director P.J. Pesce to talk about the world of Smokin' Aces and some of their thoughts about the film.

"Confessions of an Assassin" lets director Pesce and much of the cast explore how the movie was made – blood, guts, bullets, and all.

"Ready, Aim, Fire: The Weapons of Smokin' Aces 2" introduces you to the armorer who provided the 20+ guns and other weapons in the film.

"Cue the Clown" – easily my favorite feature on the DVD – walks you through the process of launching exploding clowns through the front door and windows of the jazz club – one of the most expensive stunts in the movie.

"The Bunker Mentality: Designing the Set" lets production designer Chris August, along with Pesce and Carnahan, talk about the open design they used to give them freedom to shoot nearly everywhere and the Art Deco look and feel used throughout.

Also included is feature commentary from Pesce and Carnahan.

Smokin' Aces 2: Assassin's Ball is a solid spy thriller with some serious carnage. Definitely a much better film than the original! Be sure to check it out when it's released from Universal Studios on DVD January 19, 2010.

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About Fitz

Fitz is a software engineer and writer who lives in Colorado Springs, CO, with his family and pets, trying to survive the chaos!
  • Riley Troke-Barriault

    Your taste in films is absolutely revolting.
    Yes, the original film had its flaws: the main intrigue surrounding the mobsters was convoluted and difficult to follow. Its saving grace, however, lay in its entertaining dialogue, original characters and complex battle sequences.

    The second film, while featuring a more captivating central plotline, fails in every place the first film succeeded.

    Case and point: The Tremors.
    In the first film, the Tremors are an unrelenting force of chaos. Though occasionally deriving humor from their dull-wittedness, they are nonetheless shown to be a realistically deadly force: covered with body armor and armed to the teeth with shotguns, submachine guns, machetes and chainsaws, they’re a terrifying sight to behold, turning a conventional firefight into a chaotic bloodbath.
    In the prequel, they’ve been reduced to a band of redneck-stereotypes-for-hire. Instead of the horrific realism of their attacks in the first film, we see them raiding military depots for weapons and shooting exploding clowns from circus cannons. Instead of seeing them violently squabble for seemingly no reason, they instead have passive-agressive conversations about the pros and cons of incest.
    In every place the original film held dark humor, the audience is forced to endure scene after scene of the Tremors’ cartoonish buffoonery. I can say that I’d be terrified of encountering the original Tremors, but in the prequel all I can see is a group of hillbilly stereotypes that happen to have guns.

    I could go on about the mediocre camera work, the poor aesthetics, the half-baked character concepts, the inexplicable romance that formed between two assassins that only had a single chaste conversation, the poorly written dialogue and the ridiculous use of the green screen, but that would likely require an entire review in itself. So I’ll say this: despite having what could have been an extraordinary premise, the only aspect of the film that isn’t completely botched is the character Lazlo Soot, who is actually somehow improved in stark contrast to the overall downgrade the rest of this film was given.

    Good premise with a lot of potential, but so absurdly and clunkily executed that it actually detracts from the original, clinging to the film’s continuity like a malignant tumor. Though the first film had its flaws, Assassin’s Ball is just a really bad movie.