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Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball (2010)

by on 2013/03/12

Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball (2010)
“Through all the horrible, horrible things we have to go through, I still find that one thing worth living for.”

* * *

Assassins’ Ball is awfully violent.

It nearly lost me early on in a gruelling torture scene. Closely affiliating sex and violence, anarchy and profanity, I feared that it would descend into distasteful exploitation.

Then I reminded myself I had chosen to watch the “unrated” version. To a point, I had no one to blame for the excess but myself.

And then it got weird, surreal, slapstick, and goofy. Absolutely stoopid. It nearly lost me again for a whole other reason.

It’s practically some kind of miracle I’m giving it a pass.

Despite its title, it’s actually a prequel to the original Smokin’ Aces, which I haven’t seen, and which features no Canadian content. It thus seemed fair to begin here and work my back. Eventually. Perhaps.

The plot is head-shot direct. The FBI receives a tip that one of their retiring analysts, Walter Weed (Shoot to Kill’s Tom Berenger), has been targeted for assassination at a specified date and time. He’s rushed to a safe house to be guarded by a team led by agent Zane Baker (Clayne Crawford). As the Bureau races to unravel the reason this innocuous man should be attacked, multiple mercenaries attempt to locate him, each in their own way.

The threads of the various assassins are similar, but with unique modi operandi. One is a sadistic thug (Vinnie Jones of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels); another is a femme fatale (Martha Higareda); a third is a gifted mimic (Tommy Flanagan of Sin City); the rest comprise a family of redneck stereotypes (led by From Dusk Till Dawn’s Michael Parks).

Will the villains cooperate to succeed, compete, or simply work on their own? At times their machinations resembled an inverted Mission: Impossible. (So, little surprise then, it got its hooks into me.)

It’s a crooked little picture in other ways too. Subject matter aside, it’s rife with canted angles galore. Attention-grabbing editing reminded me of Natural Born Killers, with wonky rear projection, highly saturated colours, and differently cranked speeds. Ironically its post-board of tricks didn’t bother me as much as it might. I especially liked its use of simultaneous multi-angle wipes, seeing the same event from multiple viewpoints. I began to suspect the approach was changing, depending on the character shown.

In general, I found Assassins’ Ball an interesting mix, like the blending of suspense and an action thriller, stretches of tense expectation intercut with cartoonish attacks. I realized the violence was more in ideas than in outright gore. For all their stated lethality, the assassins shot as well as the A-Team.

Granted, as I mentioned, it’s still awfully violent but, at the very least, it’s not violently awful.

* * *

Not Rated (alternate version rated R)

88 minutes (unrated version)

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