A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this fast-paced shoot-'em-up isn't for kids. While its combination of over-the-top violence and sardonic attitude produces a certain sort of humor, it's full of bloody injuries and destruction. Most of the characters -- assassins, law enforcement officers, gangsters, bounty hunters, and bodyguards -- are experts in lethal violence who use everything from guns and knives to explosions and disguises. Lots of smoking and drinking, and several characters do drugs repeatedly and excessively (mostly cocaine, but also marijuana and pills). Characters discuss sex, women wear revealing outfits and "play" prostitutes, a young boy develops a "comic" hard-on while showing off his martial-arts skills, and two of the assassins are lesbian lovers. Incessant swearing (over 100 uses of "f--k," plus other language, including the "N" word).
What's the story?
SMOKIN' ACES revolves around a Vegas card trickster named Buddy "Aces" Israel (Jeremy Piven). An odious, self-absorbed, and emotionally weak Vegas "celebrity," Buddy's the sort of stereotypical character that other gangster/cop movies set off as secondary. But here, Buddy -- in a fit of fear for his life -- decides to give up his mob associates to the feds, which means he's now the target of any number of killers, all seeking the $1 million prize offered by aging mafioso Primo Sparazza (Joseph Ruskin).
Is it any good?
Repetitive and unsurprising, Smokin' Aces offers broadly differentiated assassins who compete with reckless, ugly abandon. This is the third film directed by Joe Carnahan (his last film, Narc, was a darkly evocative consideration of masculine intimacy and loyalties).
Its incomplete list of players doesn't quite indicate the pile-on of firepower that will converge for the final showdown -- not to mention the convolutions of plot that draw everyone to the same location (betrayals, mishaps, sinister designs, etc.). The movie careens along with a galumphing zip, unabashed about its lack of sense even as it sets up a "clever" payoff that's visible from a mile away. Most of the characters have just enough screen time to mouth off with some venom, then die spectacularly.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's multiple sets of partners (professional, familial, and romantic). How do these characters try to protect each other in the face of horrendous aggression? How does the film portray the FBI as being corrupt? How does the agents' corruption compare to that of the gangsters and assassins? How does the film pull together its many plot strands? Does the film offer any sort of commentary on action movie conventions in its excessiveness? At what point does movie violence get to be too much? Who's the judge of what's acceptable and what's over the top?
- In theaters: January 25, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: April 17, 2007
- Cast: Jeremy Piven, Ray Liotta, Ryan Reynolds
- Director: Joe Carnahan
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use.
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