Smokin' Aces (18) <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Jeremy Piven, currently wowing viewers on TV's Entourage, does not get the breakout role he deserves in this baroquely complicated and ultraviolent caper thriller. He plays Buddy "Aces" Israel, a sleazy Las Vegas magician who's turned into "the great white whale of Mafia snitches".

Now, an assortment of Feds, mobsters and assassins are descending on a Lake Tahoe Hotel to grab him. The identity swaps, double-crosses and multiple shoot-em-ups are reminiscent of The Usual Suspects and early Tarantino, without the ingenuity of the former or the breakneck energy of the latter: the big set-piece speeches and the sicko violence just make you groan. It's a shame, because writer-director Joe Carnahan proved himself a serious talent with the Rashomon-style policier Narc and gave Ray Liotta, also starring here, one of the roles of his life.

This time he's gone for splashy theatrics and, aside from Jason Bateman's cameo as a drunken lawyer, it's one gigantic fizzle.

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