Another day, another three-star rating. At least this one is slightly different from the others - I actually saw this one at a really-for-real movie theater, the Alamo Lake Creek. For some reason, they decided to warm me up with the Yatta! video, which I hadn't seen in whole before - I'm not sure how that trauma affected my opinion of the movie, though.
I didn't know a lot of details about Smokin' Aces going in. There had been a few Tarantino-lite references thrown about, but I didn't really see it myself. Not that I'm a big student or anything, but I don't really see Tarantino films as being full of weird characters - they're full of (usually vicious) characters engaged in unexpected conversations (in between killing each other). The characters in Smokin' Aces don't really have much to say; one of the killers only has two spoken lines in the whole film, and two of the others don't really have any lines I can remember outside of incoherent yelling. About the only characters of interest from a dialogue standpoint are the two female killers, one of which gets into a great but one-sided discussion of woman's rights with a receptionist who clearly couldn't care less.
The interest factor here comes about from having a strange assortment of characters all congregating in one place with a lot of weapons. Some of these characters seem to be strange just for the sake of being strange. It says something when you have three neo-Nazis running around with machetes and chainsaws - and they are only the second weirdest characters in the movie. The first is the inexplicable (and completely superfluous) karate kid one of the killers encounters after getting shot up. And while strange will get you by for a while, it's no substitute for a good plot and good execution.
Plot-wise, Smokin' Aces is OK but not great. Things build up and build up to the expected shoot-out, but frankly too many people seem to take too many times to get killed. There's no way anyone survived the duel in the elevator, and yet both participants end up surviving? A guy gets half of his hand shot off and dumped in Lake Tahoe, and is running around later killing folks? At least Ben Affleck had the good graces to die quickly and get off of the screen.
The big twist at the end wasn't much of a twist, as half of it (the identity of Sparazza) was telegraphed almost immediately and the other half (the identity of Isreal) came completely out of the blue (no clues for the audience at all) and wasn't really that important anyway. So in the end, the movie is primarily a wait for the inevitable shoot-out sequence, and hoping for good individual scenes along the way (like Isreal's final conversation with Ivey). As annoying as things like the karate kid were, there were enough good things to keep me going to the end (when the "twist" showed up), so I can't really drop this one down to two stars. But not nearly good enough for four. Sigh - maybe I should just switch to good/bad instead; everything seems to end up as a three this year.