Ryan Reynolds is an actor that, to put it politely, splits opinion. Perhaps this is due to his comedy background; what people find funny is always is always subjective so if you find a comedy performer to be not funny then when they try to move away from that your opinion will always be tainted.
Case in point: Smokin’ Aces.
This was one of Ryan Reynolds’ attempts to move into something a bit more serious but it wasn’t exactly successful and got a bit of a pasting by the critics. I, however, have quite the soft for it.
The film is a bit of a tangled mess plot wise: Jeremy Piven plays Buddy Israel, a Las Vegas style magician cum mafia informant. He is on the verge of sealing a deal with the FBI which means that two agents, played by Reynolds and Ray Liotta, are to go to the Hotel penthouse where he is holed up and bring him in.
This is by no means a done deal as Piven has a bounty on his head which brings in several teams of assassins and hitmen. Everything converges into an orgy of bullets, violence and buried secrets.
It is a mess. There are more characters thrown at the screen than in an average Michael Bay film: you have a group of anarchistic Neo Nazis; a female assassination duo; the bail bondsmen who paid Piven’s bail; a master of disguise Eastern European assassin; a crazy hitman who chewed off his own finger prints; Piven’s own crew; several FBI agents both on the field and in command. This is before you get to cameos from the likes of Matthew Fox, Ben Affleck and others.
It is a lot for the film to carry which is where it starts to fall apart. Couple this with a twisty plot that refers back to previous scenes and reveals new twists every few minutes and the cracks get wider and wider.
It should be horrible but at the very least every character is interesting. They may not contribute much to the overall plot but each one of them has a good little moment that adds to the tone of the film. The world created is very interesting, especially when the grand reveal is shown at the end. It would be even better but because you don’t get much time with the characters you never really care about them, the film becomes an exercise in style.
And very stylish it is too, both in the look and tone of it’s dialogue. It is, to use a horrible phrase, very Tarantino-esque. The writer and director Joe Carnahan wears his influences on his sleeves and whilst it is a pale imitation of Tarantino at his best, it doesn’t quite have the level of self indulgence that tends to bring down Tarantino’s later work.
Every actor seems to be having a ball in the film, mainly Piven who chews every piece of scenery that comes near him. The cameos are all great, every actor fits their character like a glove and none more so than Reynolds.
In my mind, he’s the main saving grace of the film. He is one of the only moral characters in the film, surrounded by immoral characters of every type and he pulls it off. He isn’t doing any of his stupid comedy, he plays it totally down the line straight and it works.
The film isn’t perfect, far from it. What it does it give you an interesting story, some great little characters and some well done action sequences. Give it a go.
Just don’t mention the prequel. Vinny Jones, that’s all I’ll say. Just leave it alone.