Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joe Carnahan|
|Produced by||Tim Bevan
|Written by||Joe Carnahan|
|Music by||Clint Mansell|
|Edited by||Robert Frazen|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
Smokin' Aces is a 2006 British-American action-crime film written and directed by Joe Carnahan. The plot revolves around a notorious mafia informant named Israel (Jeremy Piven), protected by the FBI and hiding at the top of a heavily-guarded tower to escape the various bounty hunters, killers and mercenaries sent after him. It stars an ensemble cast consisting of Ryan Reynolds, Joseph Ruskin, Martin Henderson, Ray Liotta, Alex Rocco, Tommy Flanagan, Alicia Keys, Common, Taraji P. Henson, Nestor Carbonell, Chris Pine, Kevin Durand, Maury Sterling, Jason Bateman, and Ben Affleck as the many characters chasing and killing each other in order to either protect, capture, or kill Israel.
The film is set in Lake Tahoe and was mainly filmed at the MontBleu casino, called the "Nomad Casino" in the film. It received mixed reviews from critics who praised its cast, originality and soundtrack but criticized its violence, pacing and writing, but grossed $57 million at the box office against a $17 million production budget, making it a success and spawning a direct-to-video prequel, Assassins' Ball, produced and co-written by Carnahan. It was Alicia Keys' film debut, and Common's first featured role.
A Las Vegas magician and wannabe gangster Buddy "Aces" Israel (Jeremy Piven) is hiding out in a Lake Tahoe hotel penthouse with his entourage. His agent, lawyer Morris Mecklen (Curtis Armstrong), discusses a potential immunity deal with FBI Deputy Director Stanley Locke (Andy Garcia). Agents Richard Messner (Ryan Reynolds) and Donald Carruthers (Ray Liotta) learn that ailing Las Vegas mob boss Primo Sparazza (Joseph Ruskin) has issued a bounty on Israel worth $1 million; a mysterious assassin known only as The Swede has sworn that he will bring Israel's heart to Sparazza. A number of assassins seek the reward, including Lazlo Soot (Tommy Flanagan), who specializes in disguises and impersonations; Sharice Watters (Taraji P. Henson) and Georgia Sykes (Alicia Keys), two hitwomen hired by Sparazza's underboss, Victor "Buzz" Padiche (David Proval); Pasquale Acosta (Nestor Carbonell), a calm torture expert and mercenary; and the psychotic Neo-Nazi Tremor brothers, Darwin (Chris Pine), Jeeves (Kevin Durand), and Lester (Maury Sterling).
Locke dispatches Messner and Carruthers to take Israel into custody when the deal is struck. Meanwhile, a team of Las Vegas bail bondsmen, Jack Dupree (Ben Affleck) and his partners, "Pistol" Pete Deeks (Peter Berg) and Hollis Elmore (Martin Henderson), has been hired by the sleazy lawyer who posted Israel's bail, Rupert "Rip" Reed (Jason Bateman), to bring him into custody. The bondsmen are gunned down by the Tremors, but Elmore survives. Messner is dispatched to the murder scene while Carruthers proceeds to Israel. At the same time, each of the assassins gain access to the hotel in their own various ways.
Carruthers encounters Acosta, disguised as a security officer, in an elevator at the hotel. Carruthers senses something is wrong and both are mortally wounded in a gunfight. Meanwhile, Soot gains access to the penthouse by posing as one of Israel's henchmen. Israel's second-in-command, Sir Ivy (Common), learns that Israel agreed to inform upon Ivy as part of the plea deal and attempts to kill him, but Israel injures Ivy by throwing a playing card at his eye, causing him to shoot his gun wildly around the room. The hotel security team hear the shots and restrain Ivy in riot cuffs in the hallway. Georgia finds Carruthers and Acosta, both riddled with bullets and bleeding to death, in the elevator, but assumes Acosta is Soot. In Los Angeles Locke abruptly withdraws from the deal with Israel and orders that Messner and Carruthers are not told. The Tremor brothers reach the penthouse floor, where they engage in a shootout with the security team and Ivy, who manages to kill Jeeves and Lester. Israel, learning of the FBI's new position, attempts suicide by gunshot but passes out before he can.
Messner arrives at the hotel and sets up a position around Georgia's elevator. Sharice provides cover from another high-rise hotel with a Barrett M82 anti-materiel rifle, outgunning the FBI agents. Acosta, still alive, shoots Georgia, but is shot by Carruthers. Sharice, thinking Georgia is dead, refuses to escape and keeps shooting at the FBI team. Georgia escapes to the penthouse where she stops Darwin Tremor before he can kill Ivy. Darwin Tremor escapes by posing as an FBI agent in stolen clothes, and Messner, distraught over the death of Carruthers, stops Ivy and Georgia on the stairwell, but decides to let them escape. Sharice, after seeing the pair alive and free through her rifle scope, is gunned down by the FBI from behind.
Locke and a team of FBI agents descend on the penthouse and take Israel to the hospital, while Soot escapes by dressing as a member of hotel security. Acosta, carted away on a gurney, is shown to be alive. Darwin Tremor nearly escapes, but is gunned down by Hollis Elmore on the casino's parking garage roof.
Messner arrives at the hospital and learns the truth about the day's events from Locke at gunpoint. It transpires that the mysterious Swede is actually a prominent heart surgeon from the University of Stockholm and that Soot was hired by Sparazza to get Israel's heart so it could be transplanted into the body of Sparazza. Sparazza is further revealed to be Freeman Heller (Mike Falkow), an FBI agent who went undercover and was thought to have been killed by the mob. The FBI had attempted to kill Heller, after they thought his assignment had blurred the lines between being a mobster or an FBI agent. But Heller miraculously survived and ended up taking on the role as Sparazza full-time after his mind snapped. The mobster has agreed to expose the mob's operations in exchange for Israel's heart as he is in fact Sparazza's son, and thus, the most compatible donor.
Messner, furious over the unnecessary deaths, especially Carruthers', protests and is ordered by Locke to either resign on the spot or return to Washington, D.C., and forget about the case. Realizing that the FBI will never admit what they did, he walks into the emergency room, locks the door and pulls the plug on both men. He then lays his gun and badge on the floor while Locke and his men desperately try to break in.
- Joseph Ruskin as Primo Sparazza
- Jeremy Piven as Buddy "Aces" Israel
- Ryan Reynolds as Richard Messner
- Martin Henderson as Hollis Elmore: A former Las Vegas vice cop and the partner of Pistol Pete.
- Ray Liotta as Donald Carruthers
- Andy Garcia as Stanley Locke, the FBI Deputy-Director.
- Alex Rocco as Sidney K. Serna, a powerful crime boss.
- Tommy Flanagan as Lazlo Soot: A legendary hitman and master of disguise who wears realistic latex masks. He agrees to kill Israel's crew for a $1 million bounty, not Israel.
- Alicia Keys as Georgia Sykes: A contract killer. She and her partner, Sharice Watters, are hired by Serna to abduct Israel from his hotel before Soot can kill him.
- Common as Sir Ivy: Israel's head of security.
- Taraji P. Henson as Sharice Watters: A contract killer and the partner of Georgia Sykes. She is an outspoken feminist and a lesbian with a crush on Sykes.
- Nestor Carbonell as Pasquale "The Plague" Acosta: A Latin American mercenary notorious for both his love of torture and his having chewed off his own fingertips while in SAS custody to avoid identification by Interpol. He learns of the contract on Israel and tries to collect on it himself.
- Chris Pine as Darwin Tremor: The eldest of the Tremor brothers, a trio of redneck, speed-freak, neo-Nazi punk hitmen with a penchant for scorched earth tactics. They get wind of the hit on Israel and decide to horn in on the action.
- Kevin Durand as Jeeves Tremor: The largest and youngest of the Tremor brothers.
- Maury Sterling as Lester Tremor: The smallest of the Tremor brothers.
- Jason Bateman as Rupert "Rip" Reed: An insecure, disheveled, and perverse attorney with any number of paraphilias and addictions. His law firm bailed Israel out of jail, so he hires three bounty hunters to get him back before he officially jumps and they forfeit the bond.
- Ben Affleck as Jack Dupree: A cynical Las Vegas bail bondsman who is hired to bring Buddy Israel back from Lake Tahoe and see that he makes his next court appearance.
- Vladimir Kulich as The Swede: Feared to be a mysterious assassin, but is actually a renowned heart surgeon from Stockholm University. His real name is Sven Ingstrom.
- Peter Berg as "Pistol" Pete Deeks: A former Las Vegas vice cop fired from the force for corruption. He and his partner Hollis are hired by Dupree to help him recover Israel.
- Joel Edgerton as Hugo Croop: An Eastern European bodyguard and hanger-on.
- Christopher Michael Holley as Beanie: Israel's favorite procurer. It is revealed in Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball that "Beanie" is actually an alias. His real name is Malcolm Little, and he is an undercover FBI agent.
- Matthew Fox as Bill: The head of security at the Lake Tahoe hotel where much of the action occurs.
During the making of the film Joe Carnahan's on set photographer captured thousands of stills. These stills (over 3000) were given to the London-based studio VooDooDog who found sequential photographs that could be animated into title sequences. The images were then manipulated using After Effects giving control of camera movement and depth of field. The sequence takes inspirations from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and other 1970's movies. To give the rostrum type hand made feel, ink textures were filmed using a Canon 5D stills camera.
Originally two sequences were produced, an opening sequence and end sequence. However, only the end sequence was used.
"Yes, Joe liked the opening credits we did but after their edit they felt it slowed the momentum of the introduction. That seems to be a big concern for filmmakers now – they’re aware of the short attention span of audiences and don’t want to delay the story. As a designer, I am not sure I would agree, of course. I think that if credit sequences are good and entertaining, they can hold an audience’s attention."
|1.||"First Warning"||The Prodigy||4:21|
|2.||"Big White Cloud"||John Cale (U.S. release only)||4:05|
|3.||"Ace of Spades"||Motörhead||2:48|
|4.||"Down on the Street"||The Stooges||3:45|
|5.||"Play Your Cards Right"||Common feat. Bilal||3:09|
|7.||"Segura o Sambura"||Nilton Castro||2:55|
|8.||"Touch Me Again"||Bernard "Pretty" Purdie||4:23|
|9.||"Under the Street Lamp"||Joe Bataan||2:52|
|10.||"I Gotcha' Back"||GZA||5:00|
|11.||"I Love You"||The Bees||4:33|
|12.||"Morte di un Soldato"||Ennio Morricone||3:12|
|13.||"Save Yourself"||The Make-Up||3:22|
|14.||"Like Light to the Flies"||Trivium||5:43|
|16.||"Shell Shock"||Clint Mansell||3:09|
|17.||"Dead Reckoning"||Clint Mansell||3:16|
Release and reception
According to Box Office Mojo, the movie grossed $14,638,755 on its opening weekend (2,218 theaters, averaging $6,599 per theater). The movie grossed a total of $35,662,731 in the North American market and $18,878,474 outside the U.S, making a total worldwide gross of $54,541,205.
Smokin' Aces received mixed to negative reviews; although it was praised for its cast and soundtrack, the film has an approval rating of 29% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 155 reviews, with an average score of 4.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "A violent mess of a movie, Smokin' Aces has some of Quentin Tarantino's style but not much of his wit or humor". On Metacritic, the film has a score of 45 out of 100, based on 32 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". A.O. Scott of The New York Times gave a negative review of the film, stating that it is "a movie that may not only be dumb in itself, but also the cause of dumbness in others.... 'Smokin’ Aces,' breathless to be more — meaner, bloodier, funnier, cooler — manages to be quite a bit less." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine, however, gave the film three out of four stars; although he noted that the film has "too many characters and too many plot strands" as well as an abrupt ending, he stated that "Joe Carnahan's Smokin' Aces is shamelessly and unapologetically a guy movie.... The result is hardly original, or groundbreaking, or even necessary, but it sure as hell gets the job done."
During a rare talk session for Princeton University's series of film screenings in October 2016, director Terrence Malick praised the film, stating that it was "very well directed" and impressive in how it was able to balance numerous plotlines.
Smokin' Aces was released on DVD on April 17, 2007 and sold 1,853,397 DVD units which produced a revenue of $35,714,831, or more than double the movie's budget.
On July 17, 2007, director Joe Carnahan announced that production had been approved by Universal Pictures for a second Smokin' Aces film, which he would not direct. The film is a prequel to the original and was released straight to DVD on January 19, 2010.
- Donnellon, Paul. (Interview). Interview with Ian Albinson. London http://www.artofthetitle.com/title/smokin-aces/. Retrieved July 19, 2012. Missing or empty
- "Smokin' Aces ". what-song. Retrieved 2010-07-10.
- "Smokin' Aces (2007)". Fandango. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
- "Smokin' Aces Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
- Scott, A. O. (26 January 2007). "Sometimes Pulp Fiction Emphasizes Pulp Over Fiction". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
- Travers, Peter (26 January 2007). "Smokin' Aces". Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
- F., Eli (25 October 2016). "Terrence Malick Talks Filmmaking and His Future in Rare Live Appearance". The Film Stage. The Film Stage. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
- "Smokin' Aces - DVD Sales". The Numbers. Retrieved 2010-07-10.
- "Joe Carnahan says Smokin' Aces 2 Will be a Prequel". BeyondHollywood.com. 2007-07-20. Retrieved 2011-03-05.
- Neoganda (2007-01-09). "Smokin' Joe Carnahan". Smokinjoecarnahan.com. Retrieved 2011-03-05.
- Official website
- Smokin' Aces at the Internet Movie Database
- Smokin' Aces at AllMovie
- Smokin' Aces at Box Office Mojo
- Smokin' Aces at FilmAffinity
- Smokin' Aces at Metacritic
- Smokin' Aces at Rotten Tomatoes
- Smokin' Aces review by Brian Holcomb at Cinema Blend
- GreenCine Daily interview with Joe Carnahan and Jeremy Piven