Smokin’ Aces

Rated 2.0

A two-bit Vegas magician (Jeremy Piven) holes up in a Tahoe penthouse, readying to rat out his mobster buddies—but they’ve already put a price on his head, attracting killers-for-hire from all directions, plus some Feds (Ray Liotta, Ryan Reynolds) who need the sleazebag alive. Talky, bloody mayhem ensues. Quasi-local writer-director Joe Carnahan, rather the picayune showman himself, almost tricks you into thinking his movie is character-driven. It’s driven, anyway; what he’s really done is smash together some brightly sketched caricatures. Undeniably, Carnahan and his performers (and his macho-fanboy demographic) have enjoyed themselves here, and perhaps no other director has better understood what to do with Ben Affleck. But so what? No, Carnahan needn’t have remade Narc, his superior picture from 2002, but he needn’t have remade the Guy Ritchie oeuvre either. If only there were more to say about Smokin’ Aces than that. Even—especially—given its creator’s giddy ardor, making this movie at all just seems like toasting stale bread.