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Film / Smokin' Aces

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"When do we get concerned?"

Richard Messner: You said someone came up to you as an FBI agent?
Pimply Casino Employee: Yeah—
Richard Messner: And then you saw him get on the elevator wearing a security guard outfit?
Pimply Casino Employee: (stammering) Yeah?
Richard Messner: And that didn't seem odd to you?

A 2006 action-comedy film, directed and written by Joe Carnahan, about the Stage Magician, Casanova Wannabe, and newly turned mob informant Buddy Israel — a washed-up, bitter, narcissistic, alcoholic drug abuser of a stage magician — who gets a million-dollar bounty on his head courtesy of mob lord Primo Sperazza. Naturally, Hilarity Ensues!

A prequel, Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball, was released in 2010.

Frequently compared to Shoot 'Em Up, a similarly self-indulgent action movie released around the same time.

This film provides examples of:

  • Advertised Extra: Ben Affleck as Jack Dupree. He's listed first in the cast and was promoted in the film's marketing, making it seem as though he would be the main character. Dupree is killed off early in the film with very little fanfare, and it's actually Ryan Reynolds' Agent Messner who is the actual protagonist.
  • Affably Evil: Pasquale Acosta doesn't just kill you, he comforts you and waxes philosophy as you die.
  • All for Nothing: Agent Messner gets revenge on his boss tossing many people to the wolves to keep Sparazza alive by pulling the plug on him and Israel, killing them. Whatever Locke expected to obtain from negotiating with Sparazza is gone.
  • Anyone Can Die: And many of them do. Only five (possibly six) characters live to the end.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "My boy Dale is at the Reno Correctional Facility. He's got some clarity issues. Did some home invasion, sodomy-torture type stuff; wrote a lot of bad checks."
    • When reading Sperazza's rap sheet, Messner notes that it contains multiple counts of murder, attempted murder, extortion, and a paternity suit. That last one turns out to be a Chekhov's Gun.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Tremor Brothers, who use WWII weaponry, chainsaws, flamethrowers, and rare guns. Often prone to going Medieval on people (at the cost of a well planned hit - it's explained early in the film they were supposed to kill one guy. They wind up taking him out... and the rest of the club goers of the club he was in.)
  • Becoming the Mask: An interesting inversion of this: After FBI Agent Freeman Heller goes undercover as Mafia Hitman Primo Sparazza, the higher-ups at the FBI became wrongfully convinced that he had become the mask, and tried to have him murdered. Heller survived the assassination, and to retaliate against the Bureau that betrayed him, really did become the mask, eventually becoming the head Mafia Don.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Agent Messner. He is ultimately the one who ends up killing Sperazza and Israel by pulling their plugs when it becomes apparent in his eyes that his boss hadn't cared about tossing a couple of dozen people to the slaughterhouse in order to maybe get a high-powered informant.
  • BFG:
    • Sharice's "big mama" .50 caliber sniper rifle gets Alpha (Fe)male honors here, but the Tremors' armory makes up in quantity what it lacks in quality.
    • Sir Ivy, Buddy's lieutenant, carries a S&W Model 500, very literally the largest revolver ever made.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Buddy Israel when hanging out with the Mafia. Unfortunately for him, his incompetence is what gets him into trouble.
  • Black Like Me: Lazlo Soot's introduction scene involves him disguised as a handicapped African-American male with a Latex Perfection mask (complete with black dreadlock wig) and a motorized wheelchair.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: Pasquale's palm dagger weapon.
  • Blast Out: Several times, most notably the Tremors coming out of the elevator.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Darwin Tremor's text tattoo is an opening line from 'Mein Kampf'. It is translated very poorly however (possibly by an automated translator) and 'Braunau-am-Inn' (Hitler's birthplace) is rendered as 'Braunau-auf-der Gasthaus' ('Gasthaus' is German for 'inn'). May be justified though, because Darwin might have done the translation himself.
  • Blown Across the Room: A rather extreme example of Artistic License. Unarmored FBI agents, versus a .50 caliber anti-materiel rifle. The effects are obvious.
  • Boring, but Practical: Sir Ivy manages to defeat the Tremor Brothers—wielding chainsaws, flamethrowers, and WWII sub-machine guns—with a guard's boring Beretta and a casual SIG-Sauer (or Glock).
  • Boss Subtitles: The introduction of all principal characters includes a still frame with a name tag.
  • Bottomless Magazines:
    • Ivy manages to fire about twelve shots from a revolver in one scene, all in quick succession. The director actually points this out quite gleefully on one commentary track.
    • Sharice goes way over magazine capacity as she goes ham on the FBI agents.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Ripley Reed, almost literal example because he has a bunny costume head in his room. He is shown as bumbling, disheveled alcoholic. Later he is also revealed to be sleeping in women's lingerie.
    • Judging from the tissues and lotion on the bed, he was doing a lot more than sleeping in it.
  • Card Sharp: Buddy. Doesn't do any good for him.
    • Those same card tricks kept Sir Ivy from putting an extremely large slug in him, though.
  • Carnival of Killers: And every single one of them is aiming for Israel.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Sparazza's paternity suit. It's proof that Buddy Israel is his son.
  • Chainsaw Good: Jeeves Tremor. It backfires, however. Ivy can't shoot through his body armor, but he can make him fall on his chainsaw, which shreds the armor.
  • Climbing Climax: Exaggerated. Most of the film involves the various factions racing to the penthouse.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Dupree explaining who the Tremors are is full of cursing.
    Dupree: They are mean as shit, they are dumber than hell and these motherfuckers will go megaton on drop of a hat.
  • Conveniently Placed Sharp Thing: After his escort is killed, Sir Ivy uses a machete buried in the wall from his fight with the Tremors to cut through the zip-ties binding his hands.
  • Couldn't Find a Lighter: Darwin Tremor lights a cigarette off a road flare when the power goes out in the elevator.
  • Cradling Your Kill: Pasquale to Bill. Pasquale seems genuinely contrite about the necessity of killing Bill. Bill was just in the way, after all, and wasn't actually the target, and the two seemed to be getting along pretty well until Pasquale struck. Pasquale stayed with Bill until he died so the man wouldn't die alone.
    • Note also that Pasquale is a professional torturer, but he kills Bill quickly and relatively painlessly (or at least taht's what he tells Bill while he's dying)
  • Creator Cameo: Director Joe Carnahan as one of Israel's hired thieves during a flashback sequence.
  • Create Your Own Villain: The bureau's assassination attempt on Heller ended up with him climbing the mafia ladder and become a mob boss.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Jeeves gets shot and collapses on his chainsaw.
  • Dead Guy Puppet: Darwin Tremor murders Jack Dupree which is followed up by a macabre human ventriloquist dummy action with Darwin manipulating the dead Dupree's mouth with his hand and thumb and throwing his voice so as if to have a conversation with the recently departed.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Lazlo's specialty.
  • Death Dealer: Buddy Israel can toss a card well enough to cut and distract his bodyguard, who was about to kill him for being willing to sell him out.
  • Decoy Protagonist/Sacrificial Lamb: Ben Affleck's character who gets top billing but ultimately only gets to act as Mr. Exposition before getting shot unceremoniously. By the end of the movie it's clear that the real protagonist is Agent Messner.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Primo Sparazza a.k.a. Freeman Heller, in deep cover since the 40s.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Agent Messner crosses one at the end of the movie.
  • Downer Ending: Only Ivy, Georgia and Soot manage to get away (relatively) intact. Hollis, if he's lucky, probably will be an amputee for the rest of his life. Acosta, judging by his arm-blade being activated on the stretcher, might live, but is likely to be incarcerated. Sharice gets caught, and presumably killed, by the FBI while watching her partner walk out on her. Messner will most likely lose his job and/or go to jail after pulling the life support plugs. Everybody else... well...
  • Dramatis Personae: The opening credits show a list of all the major characters.
  • Dual Wielding: Done constantly by the Tremor brothers.
  • Dumb Muscle: From the little we see of him, Israel's henchman Hugo (played by Joel Edgerton) acts like this.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: Several, considering the Carnival of Killers are racing each other to a hotel penthouse. First starts with Acosta and an actual FBI agent wounding each other - the FBI agent's mortally wounded, which kicks off Messner's reason for revenge later on. Then Georgia is trapped in the elevator after investigating the open elevator and signals for Sharice to open up on the incoming FBI agents...
  • Elevator Going Down: Referenced. One of the main characters—who is dressed as a hooker—is waiting for an elevator. When the doors open, three heavily armed half-naked skinheads are struggling into their clothes.
    Georgia: ... I'm going down.
    Darwin Tremor: I'll bet you are!
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Acosta, who is infamous for his obscenely gruesome torture techniques, simply punctures Matthew Fox's lung so he can die painlessly in his sleep.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Sharice wears one to help sniping.
  • Face Stealer: Assassin Laszlo Soot is a master at this, murdering people close to his target and then taking their place with perfect latex masks.
  • Fingore: Hollis gets his left hand shot the hell up.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: After his encounter with the Tremor brothers, Hollis is in the bathtub at Margie's house, while Warren harasses him with a karate routine (and an erection). Cut to a shot of two prescription pill bottles, one of which is Warren's Ritalin. The other is a long-expired bottle of 40 hydrocodone tablets - these are the pills Margie then gives to Hollis (along with a .45 caliber pistol) mentioning that they "were left over from her hysterectomy."
  • Gayngster: There's also a bisexual/lesbian couple of hitmen. Vague hints of Gayngst as well.
  • Glasgow Smile: Lazlo, as he is played by Tommy Flanagan, who sports these in Real Life.
  • Groin Attack: There is a professional torturer, briefly shown applying some sort of welding torch to a twitching, naked man hanging upside down by his feet.
  • Guns Akimbo: The Ax-Crazy, Redneck, Neo-Nazi Tremor brothers frequently use akimbo weapons. The most notable of these is when the biggest Tremor brother wields a chainsaw in one hand and a Street Sweeper revolving shotgun in the other.
  • Hookers and Blow: Mobster and magician (no, seriously) Buddy "Aces" Israel, is shown ankle-deep in hookers and cocaine as he hides out in a Lake Tahoe hotel waiting for his lawyer to agree a deal with the authorities for Israel to inform on other Mafiosi in exchange for his freedom. Word of God has it that the character was inspired by Frank Sinatra's dealings with the Mafia, so it may be that Israel's lifestyle was informed by Sinatra's, which featured lots of hookers (but no blow).
  • I Call It "Vera": Shanice's 50 cal. sniper rifle is nicknamed 'Big Mama'.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Both Acosta and Darwin Tremor pretend to be FBI agents to infiltrate and get away from the hotel. In the former's case, Agent Messner calls out the Pimpled Employee for failing to notice something off about it, providing the page quote above. In the latter's case, he almost manages to escape unscathed before Hollis—one of his victims who managed to survive—catches up with him and puts a few bullets in his back.
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: At the very end of the film, Agent Messner pulls the plug on both Buddy Israel and Primo Sparazza after he learns that his partner and dozens of other agents were sacrificed for the faint hope that Sparazza would turn informant. He then disarms himself and takes out his badge, placing both on the floor in front of him, symbolically resigning from the FBI. Either way, he is going to be fired and sent to prison.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Averted. A lot.
  • Ironic Echo: Overlaps with the Despair Event Horizon above. When Agent Messner is grieving after Agent Carruthers is killed in the hotel, he takes revenge by apparently killing a FBI Deep Cover Agent.
  • The Last Thing You Ever See: Played with. Acosta kills the casino's chief of security, but comforts him in his dying moments. He tells him to close his eyes so that his face won't be the last thing the guy will ever see, because (switching to Spanish) "Heaven may hold it against you".
  • Latex Perfection: Lazlo Soot heavily relies on death masks taken from victims to disguise himself.
  • Left for Dead: Hollis is shot by the Tremor brothers and then tossed into the lake alongside his partners. He later crawled his way out of the lake and comes looking for revenge. He partially succeeds when he runs into Darwin, whom he ultimately shoots after pretending to let him leave.
  • Master of Disguise: Lazlo Soot. Played with in that his disguises are shown to take a lot of time and effort to create and voice disguising is something he's not totally perfect at even when he has an idea of the voice he has to imitate, which forces him to improvise when he shoots one of Buddy's henchmen and he has no idea of how he sounds like because he didn't heard him talk. Fortunately for him, said henchman was pretty much The Silent Bob of the crew.
  • Mole in Charge: It's revealed that the leader of the mob is an FBI agent who was burned by his handlers and had to become a criminal for real to survive, eventually rising up the ranks to the top position.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: The Swede is a surgeon instead of a hitman; however, he is hired to perform a heart transplant with an unwilling and alive donor.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Lazlo murders Hugo and steals his tracksuit to infiltrate the penthouse (combined with Latex Perfection).
  • Mutual Kill: FBI Agent Carruthers and hitman Pasquale Acosta shoot each other to death in an elevator when the agent realizes the hitman's identity. It's hinted at the end that the hitman survived, though.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "The Plague."
  • Nothing Up My Sleeve: Torture-expert and Psycho for Hire Pasquale Acosta (Nestor Carbonell) utilizes a long stiletto hidden in his sleeve that is activated with a special device.
  • Numbered Sequels: With Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Lazlo Soot's introductory scene.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The Tremors taking out the hotel security at the top floor. We only get to see the aftermath with them and Ivy.
  • Oh, Crap!: When the security detail and Sir Ivy see smoke coming out from an elevator that is going up despite the shutdown.
  • Once More, with Clarity: The Urban Legend regarding Freeman Heller and the fact Sperazza killed him is finally cleared up (Sparazza is Freeman Heller, and the FBI tried to kill him because they thought that he had done a Face–Heel Turn), as well as why Israel has become a target (not because he's an informant, but because Heller/Sparazza needs a heart transplant (and Israel is Heller's illegitimate son, so he's the best chance for the transplant), and people on both the FBI and the Mafia mistook the talk regarding The Swede as that of an incoming hitman... well, everybody but Deputy Director Locke, who simply decided not to tell anybody.)
  • Pain to the Ass: Jeeves Tremor is killed when Sir Ivy forces him to sit down on his running chainsaw.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: Buddy Israel's penthouse apartment is obviously showing signs that the party held the night before the movie starts was one of these. Naked women abound, furniture is knocked over, and Buddy gets really, really pissed off that someone somehow got "human ejaculate" on his best suede jacket.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: The Tremor Bros.
  • Red Baron: The Swede. Everyone mistakes him as a hitman, due to his title. He's really an accomplished heart surgeon who was to be brought in after Lazlo got Buddy comatose and ready for the heart operation.
  • Rescue Romance: One starts between Ivy and Georgia.
  • "Rise and Fall" Gangster Arc: The whole film takes place during the final, absurdly bloody (and plainly absurd) final hours of Buddy Israel's fall, with the "rise" supplied in an Info Dump at the beginning of the film.
  • Rule of Cool: The Movie
  • Save the Villain: A rather unintentional example given the circumstances. After Georgia takes cover in the elevator and engages in a mini-shootout with Agent Messner, a Not Quite Dead Acosta injures her. However, Carruthers manages to pull out his back-up gun and shoot him dead before succumbing to his own wounds.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: At the end of the movie when everything is revealed and it transpires that the hit was one big mistake resulting from a mis-overheard conversation; Lazlo Soot was the only one actually hired and that was not to kill Israel but to abduct him. The Bureau then decided it only wanted Israel for his heart to save his Mob boss father and all the dead FBI agents died because they weren't told. As a result, Agent Messner is so upset that his partner died just to save the life of the Mob boss (who he doesn't think will give up any useful information) that he pulls the plug on both him and Israel, making everything that happened for nothing.
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: Sharice and her aforementioned BFG.
  • Smug Snake:
  • Spies In a Van: The expository opening scene features FBI agents in a van.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: Anyone who thought they were watching a Guy Ritchie-esque wacky-hitmen movie will be pretty surprised by the dark tone the eventual exposition scene takes.
  • Throwing Your Gun at the Enemy: Agent Messner resorts to throwing his pistol when he runs out of bullets during another barrage of gunfire from the Cold Sniper. This is clearly out of sheer frustration, since the shooter is in another hotel building nearly a mile away.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Subverted for Darwin Tremor. Darwin looks like he's about to get away, but then he runs into Hollis on the way to his car. He apologizes for what happened to Hollis and his friends and gives him the keys to his car. Just as it looks like they'll part ways peacefully, Hollis decides to shoot Darwin anyway.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Buddy Israel's character arc for most of the film is this happening to him. This is most notable in the scene in which he stares at himself in the mirror in his hotel room's bathroom and starts to cry.
    • Agent Locke was fully willing to throw his own agents to the wolves if it meant keeping an "important" FBI informant in the form of Primo Sperazza alive, even refusing to accept responsibility when one of his own agents calls him out for it. As such, he undergoes this when that same agent pulls the plug of him and his son—the chosen for his heart transplant—in an act of vengeance.
  • Villains Never Lie: Georgia becomes incredibly honest by the end of the film, likely tired of the blood and not-so-clever plans going in smoke.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The final scene, in which Messner calls bullshit on his boss Locke for getting a lot of people killed (including his partner Carruthers) in the very faint hope that Sparazza will be grateful for the FBI helping with his heart transplant operation by "becoming the Rosetta Stone" for the Mafia. When Locke remains unapologetic and tells Messner to get a grip, Messner retaliates by pulling the plug on Sparazza and Israel.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Lazlo Soot at the end, when he manages to get Israel all alone, the latter not even aware of the danger he's in, but puts his gun down and starts carefully setting up what appears to be a bunch of torture instruments, and a needle. Double Subverted. He was actually hired to knock him out and abduct him so doctors could steal his heart for a transplant; however, Soot still wastes too much time, and doesn't notice that Israel nearly commits suicide while he's doing so. On the other hand, however, at least it makes it easier for him to escape when the FBI comes in.