Archive - Jan 2007

January 29th

Another Iraq Casualty

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Memo to Joe Carnahan: YOU ARE DUMB.

I normally wouldn't do this, as it borders a bit on bloggy confessionalism, but I went to see "Smokin' Aces" over the weekend, and oh, what a steaming piece of shit it was. In this column, I'm going to spoil the crap out of it, and you're gonna read it and not see it. That's the unspoken agreement between writer and audience at work.

Normally, I'll admit, going to see a lousy movie wouldn't spark an entire column. Caveat emptor, and all that. But I was expecting Aces to be a mediocre version of the movie they were advertising in the trailer - lots of hit men, lots of bullets, emphasis on the goofy. I didn't expect it to be an entirely different movie about internal FBI politics and the emotional turmoil of Ryan Fucking Reynolds. Which it was.

Even then, the many flaws of the movie might not qualify it for columnhood. Although I would like to point out that it doesn't matter how many times you jump-cut among five groups of people, opening your movie with FORTY-FIVE MINUTES OF EXPOSITION is still a mistake. Maybe if all of it had come from Jason Bateman, it might have worked. Maybe. Which is a really odd sentence now that I read it.

Back to the point. You see, I read an interview with the director that revealed WHY the movie sucked so hard. ACTUAL QUOTE WITHIN A QUOTE TIME!

"When he was writing "Smokin' Aces," American forces were in Iraq searching for weapons of mass destruction, and he was thinking we were 'being b.s.'d a little bit. So when I look at 'Smokin' Aces,' I see the entire film as misinformation. The twist at the end is completely immaterial to me. I just loved the idea that misinformation could lead to this horribly chaotic violence.'" - Joe Carnahan via the Daily News' Bob Strauss

I'm not sure you can actually stretch the term "immaterial" to describe that twist. Which is, by the way, that Buddy Israel, the Vegas magician and mob guy who's the target of all the hitmen, is actually the illegitimate son of a dying Italian mob boss, who wants Israel's heart for a transplant. Oh, and also, the Italian mob boss isn't an Italian mob boss, but actually a deep-cover FBI agent from the 40s who, after being shot in the face repeatedly by the FBI who suspected he'd gone rogue, got lots of reconstructive surgery and actually did go rogue, but the FBI wants the information in his head so they want to get Israel and perform the transplant themselves. Which pisses off Ryan Reynolds, whose old partner died because of a vague Iraq war metaphor.

I'd like to extend my condolences to the family of the word "immaterial", bits of which were found several miles away from the Carnahan interview site.

Not only does this twist take up about a third of the movie (or 80% of the non-exposition parts of the movie), but it's seriously at odds with the crappy movie I thought I was going to see, which had neo-Nazi hit men with chainsaws in it. And a master of disguise. And about 3 other bosses from 90s video games, now that I think about it. I want to like a movie with those things in it, but Carnahan's got a message, dammit.

"I certainly didn't go through this as an empty-headed exercise in violence and confusion and deliberately troubling the viewer with trying to stay ahead of all this stuff." Yeah? Well, it's better to make an empty-headed movie and have people suspect you're an idiot than to try an inject meaning into it, thereby removing all doubt.

Oooh, government misinformation leads to horrible bloodshed and violence. Just like in Iraq. I can't imagine how my sociopolitical life managed to go this long without an action movie pointing this out to me in the most ludicrously convoluted way possible. Thank you, Joe Carnahan, for incorporating your vague feelings of being bullshitted by the government into your cinematic masterpiece.

And you know what the worst part is? Here's the worst part. For years, one of the slurs the right has heaped on liberals is that we blame everything on George Bush. That we hate him so much that even seemingly unrelated bad things that happen are Dubya's fault. It's a ridiculous stereotype that builds the myth that "liberal anger" isn't meant to be taken seriously.

But this time, it's true. George Bush made this movie suck. And those two hours of my life are the latest, tiniest casualty of the Iraq War.