Smokin' Aces

Smokin' Aces

DVD Rating: ***1/2

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Smokin' Aces

Available not just on dvd, but also on HD-DVD and as a download-to-own, Smokin' Aces is a lavishly presented package.

As well as a crisp transfer of the film itself, the dvd's stylish animated menus lead to a wealth of extras, which, though offering few surprises in their content, benefit greatly from writer/director Joe Carnahan's infectious enthusiasm and all-round good humour.

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There are nine minutes of deleted and extended scenes (more bar-room banter from the three bail bondsmen, more inconsequential arguing from the Tremor brothers after their drive-by shooting, etc.), as well as an alternative ending in which Agent Messner goes all 'cowboy' on the hospitalised Aces and Sparazza. This is all entertaining enough, although it is also easy to see why this material never made final cut: most is too long and rambling for a film as deliriously pacy as Smokin' Aces, while the variant ending is too short and perfunctory to have any real impact. And this is the pick of the bunch - in the commentary Carnahan alludes to much more footage that ended up on the cutting-room floor.

The nine minutes of outtakes mostly comprise scenes in which lines are fluffed, pranks are played, card tricks go wrong, or Ben Affleck (as bail bondsman Jack Dupree) fails again and again to pocket an eight ball - but there is also a glimpse of the way the players were encouraged to ad-lib dialogue in their scenes.

The Line-Up (13 minutes) intercuts scenes from Smokin' Aces with soundbites from all the principal players (except Ray Liotta) stating the obvious about their characters. It is essentially an extended promo for the film, although Maury Sterling, Chris Pine and Kevin Durand give a hilarious interview in character as the Tremor brothers, while Ben Affleck asserts the irresistibility of playing "any character who wears a pinkie ring".

The Big Gun (12 minutes) is a behind-the-scenes featurette combined with a director's on-set diary. Carnahan discusses his intention to make "a kind of refined, intellectual drive-in kind of movie" with a "gonzo, let-it-all-fly approach", and his belief that it is good acting which drives any movie. We also get to see him delivering the immortal direction "cue boner". Meanwhile, Shoot 'Em Up: Stunts and Effects (five minutes) is a featurette devoted to the film's guns and gun effects (all done in-camera on-set), and includes interviews with actors Ryan Reynolds, Alicia Keys, Taraji Henson, Ben Affleck, and sfx coordinator Lars Anderson.

Finally there is the full audio commentary with Carnahan and his editor Robert Frazen - a good-natured (and well-lubricated) chat about the challenges of pulling together a film with so many characters, subplots and tones, as well as about the merits and demerits of audio commentaries themselves. We learn that Jeremy Piven actually crashed Wayne Newton's Las Vegas show in character as Aces; that Carnahan and Frazen share a "love of big breasts"; and that the film is "just this great expulsion of wild, random energy" from "a very diseased mind having years of inactivity". Carnahan acknowledges debts to directors as varied and hallowed as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Polanski, Stanley Kubrick, Orson Welles, Sergio Leone and Paul Thomas Anderson - but suggests that his biggest inspiration was in fact the Coen brothers' Raising Arizona (with Aces substituting for the baby in that film). It almost makes sense...

Reviewed on: 08 May 2007
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Smokin' Aces packshot
A contract killing at Lake Tahoe with an assortment of assassins and the FBI blundering along behind.
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Product Code: 8248713

Region: 2

Ratio: 16:9

Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0, 5.1

Extras: Full audio commentary, deleted/extended scenes, outtakes, alternative 'cowboy' ending, 'The Line-Up' featurette, 'The Big Gun' featurette, 'Shoot 'Em Up' featurette

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