Smokin' Aces 

Directed by Joe Carnahan

A bloody thrill ride, Smokin’ Aces barely overcomes its densely layered mayhem. Everyone’s gunning for Buddy Israel (Jeremy Piven), a magician/con man who snitched out the mob and is holed up in the penthouse suite of a ritzy Lake Tahoe hotel. Piven does his best Scarface imitation, smeared coke on the nostrils and all. He’s Ari Gold on crack.

It’s hard to follow the competing goon squads, from FBI to gangster hit men to post-apocalyptic Road Warrior wackos. The prettiest team includes Alicia Keyes’ sassy assassin, Georgia. Her getaway scene with Sir Ivy (Common) is an instant hip-hop classic.

The cast keeps coming: Ray Liotta, Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Peter Berg. But there may be no better performance in Smokin’ Aces than when 15-year-old Warren (Zack Cumer) taunts one of the hobbled hit-men with nunchucks while his mom ineptly tries to shoo him away.

The more absurd the better, but ultimately director Carnahan’s action film suffers from shoot-’em-up-itis à la Tarantino and Ritchie. The Kevorkian twist at the end is one of its few bloodless moments.

Opens January 26

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