Writer-director Joe Carnahan's third and most elaborate feature presents as its antihero a glitzy stage-magician cum mobster mascot turned mob kingpin, then FBI informer. Buddy "Aces" Israel (Jeremy Piven) is, as someone in this overstuffed baloney and ketchup sandwich puts it, "the great white whale of snitches." Everyone wants a piece of this joker's hide -- which, given its rumored million-dollar price tag, makes the Lake Tahoe penthouse where he's lying low something of a magnet for a gaggle of competing hit squads. To add to the barbarism, the killers have orders not just to ice Israel, but to cut out his heart. Let the games begin. Smokin' Aces has no particular narrative -- it's basically a study in convergence, as a vast assortment of FBI guys, hotel security men, SWAT teams, and killers of all varieties (including a clan of lunatic chainsaw-wielding neo-Nazi mohawk-coiffed punks) fight, claw, and swarm their way up to Israel's suite. Self-important but not untalented, Smokin' Aces is tonally consistent from beginning to end and, for all its bloody mayhem, kinetic nihilism, and jive minstrelsy, has a surprisingly light touch. What Carnahan's picture lacks in hilarity, it recoups with a well-developed albeit mumbling sense of the absurd.
Joe CarnahanBen Affleck, Jason Bateman, Peter Berg, Brian Bloom, Sharon Bruneau, Nestor Carbonell, Clare Carey, Sheryl ChambersJoe CarnahanRobert GrafUniversal Pictures