Smokin’ Aces appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not without concerns, the transfer seemed reasonably satisfying.
A few issues came from sharpness. Wide shots occasionally looked a bit soft and ill-defined, but those instances didn’t occur with great frequently. The majority of the flick offered decent clarity and delineation. I noticed no signs of shimmering or jagged edges, and virtually no source defects presented themselves. I noticed some edge haloes through the flick.
Aces went with a stylized palette, as the colors tended toward the desaturated side. The DVD replicated the tones with good fidelity, and they seemed to fit well with the visual design. Blacks were rich and tight, while shadows seemed clear and appropriately visible. The mild softness and edge haloes left this as a “B”-level transfer.
I also thought that the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Smokin’ Aces proved fairly effective. Much of the time the soundfield remained fairly subdued. It usually went with general environmental information and also added good stereo imaging for the music. Occasionally it kicked into higher gear, though, and those scenes added punch. For instance, the action sequences used all five speakers well. This wasn’t an incredibly active mix, but it spread out when necessary.
I found some minor problems with the balance and quality, though. Speech was usually intelligible and natural, but I heard some light edginess, and the mix occasionally left the dialogue a little too low in volume; that meant some lines were a bit hard to hear. Effects seemed clear and accurate, at least, and they showed good range. Music was also lively and dynamic. Overall, the audio satisfied, though the mild concerns meant it ended up with a “B”.
We find a good collection of extras on this DVD. The package starts with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from writer/director Joe Carnahan and editor Robert Farazen, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They look at story and editing issues, cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, influences, and a mix of production nuts and bolts.
Carnahan seems somewhat full of himself and the commentary comes with too much praise for the flick and those involved, but otherwise, this is a good track. We get a frank appraisal of various topics and learn quite a lot about the flick. The participants keep things light and lively as they offer a satisfying examination of the production.
The second commentary presents writer/director Joe Carnahan and actors Common, Christopher Holley and Zach Cumer. They give us another running, screen-specific chat. This track looks at locations and sets, characters, cast and performances, and general thoughts about the production.
At the start of the commentary, Carnahan mentions that he doesn’t plan to say much since he already recorded the track with Farazan. However, he acknowledges his chatty ways and admits he’ll probably dominate the proceedings. The latter side of things comes true, as Carnahan fills most of the discussion, though the others get in a few decent remarks.
Not a lot of great material shows up here. A fair amount of repetition occurs, and we still get too much happy talk. The commentary is loose and amusing enough, as Carnahan remains a fun talker, but there’s not much worthwhile content on display.
The DVD presents a collection of unused footage. We get an alternate ending, deleted/extended scenes and outtakes. The “Cowboy Ending” lasts 65 seconds, while the collection of outtakes goes for nine minutes, 29 seconds. As for the deleted/extended scenes, they include “Longer Bar Sequence” (2:31), “You Ain’t No Chinese” (1:25), “Elmore Crawls Out of Lake” (0:19) and “Alternate Rooftop Parking Lot” (5:06). In a self-indulgent movie, they prove to be more of the same, as they don’t bring out anything useful or intriguing in terms of story or characters.
Getting back to “Ending”, it simply offers a more direct, violent conclusion to the narrative. I don’t think it works better or worse for the finish found in the flick. Finally, the “Outtakes” give us bloopers and goofiness from the set. A few amusing moments emerge – such as when we witness Ben Affleck’s lack of skill on the pool table – but most of the material falls into the standard blooper realm.
Next comes a featurette called Shoot ‘Em Up: Stunts and Effects. It lasts four minutes, 53 seconds as it includes notes from Carnahan, special effects coordinator Larz Anderson, and actors Ryan Reynolds, Taraji Henson, Alicia Keys, Maury Sterling, Chris Pine, Kevin Durand, Ben Affleck, and Ray Liotta. As you might expect from such a short piece, there’s not a lot of depth to “Shoot”. We get very basic notes on effects and stunts, and we learn a little about how the actors dealt with these challenges. For its length, this is a decent program, but we don’t learn a ton from it.
Another featurette entitled The Big Gun: Smokin’ Aces runs 11 minutes, 54 seconds. It features Carnahan as he talks about his goals for the flick, trivia, and various aspects of the shoot. The footage from the set offers the strongest elements of “Gun”, as we see some interesting behind the scenes bits. Carnahan’s chatty nature helps make the piece crank along well in other ways. It’s not a killer featurette but it presents a fun look at parts of the flick.
An interactive feature arrives next with The Line Up. This lets us learn a little more about the movie’s characters. To find short featurettes, you can click on these areas: Buddy Israel (2:05), Bounty Hunters (2:46), the Feds (3:14), Lethal Ladies (2:34), and the Tremor Brothers (2:47). Across these, we hear from Common, Keys, Henson, Affleck, Reynolds, Sterling, Pine, Durand, and actors Jeremy Piven, Jason Bateman, Peter Berg, Martin Henderson, and Andy Garcia. These pieces basically just discuss the characters and give us a little insight into them. They never become vital programs, but they help flesh out the personalities in a moderately interesting way.
A few Previews open the DVD. We get ads for Children of Men, Alpha Dog, Heroes, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Las Vegas, Hot Fuzz, The Hitcher and HD-DVD. No trailer for Aces shows up on the disc.
A messy melange of cheap humor, annoyingly quirky characters, inconsistent tone and excessive exposition and dialogue, Smokin’ Aces flops in almost every possible way. It never remotely gels into a coherent experience, as it jumps around so much that it can’t connect with the viewer. Not that most folks will care, as they’ll abandon this stinker within the first 20 minutes. The DVD presents generally positive picture and audio as well as a pretty nice set of extras. I can’t complain about this solid release, but the movie itself falls short of its goals.