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From The Digital Sweatshop
The Music, Art and Travels of Alan D. Oldham a.k.a. DJ T-1000.

Smokin' Aces.

Monday, January 29, 2007



If you thought that mid-'90s run of post-Tarantino crime flicks ("Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead," "2 Days in the Valley," "The Usual Suspects," etc.) was over, think again. Writer/Director Joe Carnahan ("Narc") crafts another hyperreal, ultra-violent world of genius-level bad guys who talk in pop/hip-hop culture references, throwaway quips, and who liberally use the n-word.

A very diverse cast of likable actors populates the flick. What I really liked was that the actors played against their types. Ben Affleck's career resucitation continues with a small but effective role. Under a wig, mustache and '70s aviator glasses lurks the once-couldn't-get-arrested, now-ubiquitous Matthew Fox from "Lost." The usually-annoying Ryan Reynolds, known for smug, frat boy humor (I hated him in "Blade: Trinity"), brings a surprising gravitas to a serious role. In the most forward-thinking casting, Alicia Keys plays a sexy, bi-sexual hitwoman and rapper Common brings the coolness.

And the currently-hot Jeremy Piven ("Entourage"), doing his best last-reel-of-"Scarface," gives a coked-out, desperate performance as the titular Buddy "Aces" Israel.

In true Tarantino mode, the story jumps around a lot. The basic plot is that Vegas magician-turned-gangster Buddy "Aces" Israel, has now decided to turn state's evidence against his erstwhile Mafia buddies. A million dollar reward is put up for the assassin that does him in before he can testify (I was thinking, "Only a million?"). Several of the world's heaviest hitters (some bordering on over-the-top comic-book mode, a la "Sin City") come out of the woodwork to claim the cash, Alicia and her 100% lesbian partner Taraji P. Henson ("Hustle and Flow") amongst them.

The hitters all converge on the Lake Tahoe penthouse where "Aces" is holed up, and all hell breaks loose as they try to get to him. The ol' ultra-violence gets to be a little over the top, but that's just me.

The visual tone of the movie is your basic, manic post-Tony Scott style; handheld cams, edited up the ass, different film stocks, different speeds, bright pop colors. Totally unlike the monochrome, Detroit-based grittiness of Carnahan's last one, "Narc." If you saw Tony Scott's "Domino," you know what to expect. I actually dig movies like that. The quick-cutting technique is off-putting to some, however.

Unlike "Domino," though, the story here is actually coherent. The last half-hour of the flick takes a couple of inventive twists and turns a la "The Usual Suspects," and ends up not being the movie you thought you were paying for. In a good way.

I paid full price for it and it was worth it. It's also worth a DVD purchase (not rental) as well, if you're an action/crime fan. Film snobs will turn their noses up at it. I can hear Roeper panning it now. It's not Jean-Luc Godard, okay? It's not Kurosawa. It doesn't have subtitles. Nobody's winning any Oscars here. There's nothing innovative behind it. So get over it. It's pop. It's bangin'.

Poster design is also off the hook. I can't remember when a movie poster grabbed me like this. Look at that shit (see above). Design for your ASS, baby. It is so damn sick. I got it on my desktop now.

This is the kind of flick that makes you wanna shoot your own movie.

-AO :: 12:16 PM ::

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