Freud said, “There are no coincidences.” I thought that was true in isolated incidents, but didn’t think it was a universal absolute because that would suggest there was order in the world and I see entropy and chaos being more likely factors that influence nature.
That was until this past Monday when I saw a screening of Smokin’ Aces on the same day the Razzie nominations were announced. The Razzies salute the worst that Hollywood has to offer each year, and you’d be hard pressed to find anything worse than this mind-numbingly stupid piece of garbage. It’s not a good sign when you think getting into a car accident on the way to the theater would have been time better spent.
Of course, every filmmaker would like to make a version of The Sting, but what writer/director Joe Carnahan fails to realize is The Sting succeeds because the brilliance of the story comes from its believability that the events could realistically happen. He, obviously an attendee of the Tarantino school of filmmaking and deep thinking, wrote a story involving the mob, hit men, and the FBI and apparently conducted his research by watching bad movies.
The film is about Robert “Aces” Israel, a Las Vegas showman with ties to the mob. He is holed up in a Tahoe casino awaiting word on an immunity deal to turn state’s evidence. The mob boss, who appears to be 110, puts a $1 million dollar reward out for Israel with the caveat that he wants Israel’s heart. This is overheard by FBI surveillance and word leaks out to a number of bounty hunters, some smooth, some insane. Now, you may wonder obvious questions like why wouldn’t the mob handle this internally or why would they be discussing this over the phone, but you are making the mistake of thinking, which is more than any of the characters or the screenwriter did.
Everyone descends on the hotel. The FBI agents approach as if they forgot there’s a bounty. All the bounty hunters are somehow surprised that $1 million would interest other bounty hunters. Madness and mayhem and death ensues, but quicker than you can say, “Deus Ex Machina,” the Assistant Director of the FBI, who is negotiating the terms with Israel’s attorney in Los Angeles, receives a mysterious, old folder (we can tell it’s old because the prop team made sure to cover it with a ridiculous amount of dust) from Washington DC, which makes the whole story clear and provides a resolution.
When the story is revealed to the audience, it is so outlandishly implausible that not only don’t the details make any sense, but also it is astounding that anyone could have read the script and given it the green light. The whole endeavor must really be an excuse to shoot big guns, set off explosions, and simulate chunks of bodies flying around on the studio’s dime. If that’s your fetish, that’s fine, but at least be honest about it like the Jackass gang. Don’t try to couch it in a dramatic story; film people blowing stuff up real good and leave it at that. The most pathetic part is when we get a recap at the conclusion as Carnahan replays scenes to say, “See, that was a clue,” under the delusion that he wrote a story like The Sixth Sense. When your story is nonsensical, hints are rendered moot.
If you are 17-, 18-years-old and wasted on cough syrup or model airplane glue, you may think the film is the shizzle because it plays like a video game with all the music and gunfire. Admittedly, there were two funny scenes with Jason Bateman as the drunken attorney and The ADD Karate Kid, but just wait for those scenes to be uploaded to YouTube. All the other attempts at comedy were woeful and pathetic. For everyone else, flossing with razor wire would be a better use of your allotted entertainment time.
Much in the same way that people don’t discuss politics or religion because of the friction and ill will it can cause, people shouldn’t tell me they liked this movie. I’ll laugh it off in person and say I was joking, but deep down inside, I will honestly think less of you. Wait a few months and with any luck, I’ll see something worse. After all, the year is young, even though Carnahan and the gang have set the bar very high. I’m off to find my pal Fumo Verde to smoke an entire half-ounce of New York Red Diesel straight through in the hopes that I can completely remove it from my short-term memory.