The Red Right Hand
  www.theredrighthand.co.uk





SMOKIN' ACES
May The Best Hitman Win

Director
Joe Carnahan
Starring
Jeremy Piven
Alicia Keys
Andy Garcia
Ray Liotta
Ryan Reynolds

Just to list the cast is a singular achievement, a full host of brand names in for the big sell. The question that's been on my mind is what were they told after reading the script? I'll be honest, I'm not sure why half of the actors/actresses are involved, it's almost as if they heard someone big was working on this movie (I imagine Ray Liotta, as Carnahan has worked with him before on Narc) and this was his next piece after turning down Tom Cruise for Mission Impossible III and they all wanted in. For the most part this film is a fairly entertaining dark comedy with a lot of guns and characters but no real direction; everything in the script implies an immense gun-for-hire free-for-all but all we're rewarded with are a few mini battles and a Darth Vader ending. You leave the cinema feeling disappointed and cheated but at the same time you can't shake the feeling that you enjoyed yourself. With a fine array of high-calibre actors it's not that difficult to pull something out of nothing; true the film cannot be legendary for a foul script will kill a film, no matter how good the actor is, but at the same time you can still scrape something out of a highly budgeted flop.

Buddy 'Aces' Israel [Piven] is a Las Vegas entertainer who goes down the Sinatra road, getting mixed up with the mafia and finding himself in too deep. Israel is a man who loves the decadence that fame has brought him, surrounding himself with prostitutes, drugs and dabbling in armed robberies - not taking part in them, simply orchestrating them. After one particular bank heist goes pear shaped, the FBI present Israel with an offer, in exchange for information on the only big Mafioso boss left uncaught they will offer him the greatest vanishing trick of his career - the witness protection program. While awaiting collection by two FBI agents, Carruthers [Liotta] & Messner [Reynolds], word gets out about a one million dollar hit on Israel. Suddenly everyone is aware of the contract and the race to find him and remove his heart is on. Among the assortment of killers are trio of Neo-Nazi brothers, a bail bondsman & two ex-cops, a master of disguise and two young female contract killers. Each group is introduced very quickly and at some point Carnahan must have realised that he'd added too many people, so as the bondsman and ex-cops [Ben Affleck, Peter Berg and Martin Henderson] are at the side of the road, planning how to infiltrate the hotel Israel is being hidden away in, the Nazi brothers pull up and shoot them all. It's madness but it does make for an interesting part to the story, explaining how a small group of mad, suicidal death-junkies are going to sneak into a highly secure hotel/casino. However, Ben Affleck is disposed of so early in the proceedings that you start to realise that none of them are safe and every character is expendable; hence the expected bloodbath finale.

It's a highly stylised piece with a rich assortment of actors that simply overwhelms the senses but at the same time the script doesn't do any of the positive elements justice. The loose ends are too many and the explanations far too rushed, leaving the audience confused and irritated, as if nothing has been accomplished. One of the major conflicts in mood was, in part, thanks to the work of Reynolds and Liotta who are acting in an entirely different movie. In their minds they are two FBI agents protecting a key witness in a clever crime drama, as opposed to two bumbling FBI clowns who haven't a clue who's where, adding to the whole comedic flow of the feature. If Carnahan had not tried to interject a serious side to this film he would have probably pleased the audience more but following the poor attempt to tie up all the loose ends the last thing anyone needs is a rushed ending with 'meaning.' It's definitely worth a watch and credit is due to Carnahan for trying to breathe life into a genre that died in the mid 90's, but the whole project feels rushed and a little too happy to end on a botched note. My main quibble with the whole film is that it all could have been avoided had a mafia boss worded himself a little better and if the people working for him had been less hungry for power.

Release Date:
UK - 12th January 2007
US - 26th January 2007

The Scene To Look Out For:
No sooner had the Nazis gotten rid of Affleck, he was up on the screen again, this time giving the best performance of his career. His killer, Darwin Tremor [Chris Pine], was squatting over him, moving his lips and speaking for him. The camera cuts back and forth between Affleck's corpse telling Darwin that he forgives him and that heaven's "real pretty" and Pine's face, torn up by Affleck's words but reluctantly agreeing with him. Stupid but hilarious.

Notable Characters:
There are two; the first being Alicia Keys, who provided a rather impressive transition from music to film. Unlike most musicians who decide to act, she actually can. The second is a little strange; Martin Henderson's character has been shot and left for dead. He stumbles through the wood, minus three fingers and suffering from hypothermia until he comes across a small house. As he falls at the door step, a young boy of 13-14 opens the door, dressed as the Karate kid and proceeds to steal the film. This is a child who suffers from ADHD and thinks he's black. He lives with his grandmother and plays with nunchakus. I can't begin to describe how funny this little guy was, every single thing he said and did had me chuckling in my seat... now some of you may say that's sick and you're probably right but I'm sure at least nine other people will laugh so I thought I'd make mention of it. Nods also go to Jason Bateman and Matthew Fox for some enjoyable cameos.

Highlighted Quote:
"Hey, man, that's not yours. Get your dick beaters off it"

In A Few Words:
"Too messy to produce anything of true worth but the degree of fine acting compensates when the script cannot"

Total Score:
6/10


Matthew Stogdon