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Feature


Walter Weed (Tom Berenger), a disabled FBI agent, has become the target of a three million dollar bounty. He doesn’t know why, but bizarrely he knows when, and if the batch of psychotic assassins that are out to get kill him fail before the deadline, the deal’s over. Now all the FBI has to do is protect Weed and wait until the time runs out. But as with the original Smokin’ Aces, it’s not going to be that easy.

 Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball
I never liked the original Smokin’ Aces. Despite the cast, despite the high octane action sequences, and despite the Tarantino-wannabe cool factor, I just walked away from it more bored than thrilled and didn’t but into any of it. Unsurprisingly that pattern follows here, with Assassins’ Ball providing more of the same but with a cheapened direct-to-video sheen to make things even more guff.

Despite picking up the general set up and what the players had to do, I’ve gotta say, I found the first forty odd minutes of this sequel almost unintelligible. I understood the words coming out of the characters' mouths but I’ll be damned if I knew what most of them were talking about and how it related to the goings on. Berenger was probably the worst offender of this but all of the characters are thrown at you with such a mishmash of styles and clichés that I just found it really difficult to care. I just wanted something to happen already.

After an hour or so wait, things finally get around to kicking off and the assassins turn up at the FBI safe house (carefully disguised as a Jazz club, which incidentally isn’t holding a ‘ball’ as the title might imply). After a few half assed attempts to build tension, mainly involving Vinnie Jones, a couple of the other would be assassins try to weasel their way into the hidden bunker, then the Tremor family arrive and really get things underway. This begins with them firing a clown through the window with a circus cannon and in the only inspired element of the movie, the clown is rigged with explosives, kicking off the shoot out with a boom.

 Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball
It’s here that Smokin’ Aces 2 gets a bit more fun (and I really do mean ‘a bit’) with guns going off all over the place, characters dying and the Tremors pepping up events by using a bazooka in a bar shootout (come on, who isn’t going to have fun with that?). Unfortunately, it’s all downhill after that. The more than obvious twist arrives and the story comes to a head but in amongst all of this chaos all I kept finding myself doing is question what was actually happening here. For example, how did they manage to get that much C4 into the FBI safe house without them knowing? How did the character 'AK-47 Tremor' (the O.C’s Autumn Reeser—who’s having a riot in this role) get in the back way where we were told from the start that there was no back way in? If there was only four minutes to go before the deadline ended, why did the last speech revealing what was really going on last about ten?

Anyway, as you can probably tell, I wasn’t that blown away by this sequel. I may have missed the point somewhere along the line and maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be swept away by another Smokin’ Aces movie. Whatever the reason is, this movie did absolutely nothing to keep me interested and despite the fairly cool abrupt ending, I just spent most of the movie wanting every character to just die in an explosion, much the same feeling I had with the original.

 Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball

Video


As with most DTV releases, this looks less like a movie and more like a glossy TV show. The best comparison I can come up with style wise is Smallville. Scenes are filled with bright garish greens, reds and bright oranges, providing a bright palette. All of this is countered with deep blacks and high contrast levels and everything comes off as trying to hide the illusion of a low budget (though failing miserably).

Despite the cheap visuals and the obvious corner cutting due to budget, the transfer itself can’t really be knocked. The image is clean and pretty much grain free. Colours are presented very well with brightly coloured fabrics showing themselves off with that HD pop. The detail levels are acceptable, if not a little washed out and the transfer generally has a warm unnatural glow to it, even in the darkest of moments.

Smokin’ Aces 2 isn’t trying to be that clever with its visuals and I’d guess with the budget, they couldn’t if they wanted to but the HD transfer here shows off every cheap trick it has to offer. From terrible film set locations, god awful CGI explosions and flimsy sets. Make no mistake the transfer is a good one but it shows off every nook and cranny of this DTV release.

 Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball

Audio


This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track can be summed up in one word. Frantic! One minute we get low dialogue in the front speakers with a heart beating bit of score to add tension, floating in the rear speakers then we’re suddenly attacked with a rip roaring cut away with a metal guitar scraping on your senses and the thumping of someone getting punched or shot. It’s all pretty powerful and impressive stuff and as with the style of the movie, it’s not designed to be subtle.

Pretty much every scene has atmospherics sitting in the rear speakers—whether it be bar dwellers, creaks, or flying bullets—and of course when the shoot out arrives, the track goes ape shit. Each weapon coming with its own distinct boom or varying levels of bass to pack extra punch. In amongst all that you get blood splatters smashing furniture and fists connecting with faces. All in all it’s a track that uses its power effectively and goes for the jugular.

Extras


There are ten minutes of deleted scenes, all presented in standard definition and all of them relatively pointless and the ‘Gag Reel’ (06:32 SD) has a few chuckles  but nothing that memorable.

 Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball
‘Behind the Scenes with Joe Carnahan’ (06:30 HD) has the producer starting off by telling us that Smokin’ Aces is misunderstood, though his reasons why, didn’t really change my opinion.  Also with the bucket load of clips they show from the original really shows off just how cheap the style of the sequel is in comparison.

‘Confessions of an Assassin’ (25:59 HD) is the making of and its pretty conventional stuff with cast giving their opinions and the director giving little nuggets of information as it moves along.
 
‘Ready, Aim, Fire: The Weapons of Smokin’ Aces 2' (04:17 HD) has the cast listing the weapons they use followed by a few nerdy top trumps facts and figures about them and shots of them being fired on set.

‘Cue the Clown’ (02:57 HD) focuses on the scene where the bomb rigged clown arrives through the set window and how that scenes was put together and 'The Bunker Mentality: Designing the Set' (03:35 HD) concentrates on the main set of the movie.

Lastly we get the commentary from producer Joe Carnahan and director P.J. Pesce who spend their time telling each other stories in relation to what’s on screen, harking back to the original movie and seem to be having a whale of a time. As it drags on everything gets a little more technical and little more spaced out only to ramp back up again during the shoot out.

 Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball

Overall


Smokin Aces 2 joins the ranks of the other dodgy DTV releases and no doubt more will be spewed out before the sales drop right off. Despite its big flashy shoot outs and over the top characters, it has to be said that not that much happens on the build up to the closing scenes. The story is obvious with a very guessable twist, the characters are all but forgettable and at the end of the day it’s all guts and no glory (and even the guts ain’t much to write home about).

As for the disc, it’s solid in both video and audio departments and a little fluffy in extras. It’s not a bad little package overall considering the DTV nature of the release but even with that said, I’m not entirely sure who’s gonna want to buy this.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.


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