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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
P.J. Pesce
Cast:
Tom Berenger, Vinnie Jones, Clayne Crawford, Tommy Flanagan, Maury Sterling, Martha Higareda, Christopher Michael Holley, Ernie Hudson
Writing Credits:
Olatunde Osunsanmi (and story), Olumide Odebunmi (and story), Joe Carnahan (story and characters), Tom Abrams, P.J. Pesce

Synopsis:
The director of Smokin’ Aces and Narc brings you back into the adrenaline-pumping world of blood, bullets and badasses. Packed with insane mercenaries, sexy assassins, and more of the fan-favorite Tremor family, this all-new explosive film tells the story of a low-level FBI agent with a high-price on his head! May the best hit man survive!

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.78:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French

Runtime:
Rated Version: 86 min.
Unrated Version: 88 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 1/19/2010

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Producer PJ Pesce and Executive Producer Joe Carnahan
• Deleted Scenes
• Gag Reel
• “Behind the Scenes with Joe Carnahan” Featurette
• “Confessions of an Assassin” Featurette
• “Ready, Aim, Fire: The Weapons of Smokin’ Aces 2” Featurette
• “Cue the Clown” Featurette
• “The Bunker Mentality: Designing the Set” Featurette


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Smokin' Aces 2 [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 22, 2010)

With a gross of only $35 million, 2006’s Smokin’ Aces didn’t set any box office records. However, it must’ve attracted a decent audience, as it earned a direct-to-video sequel: Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball.

Since I thought the original Aces was a mess, why did I choose to watch its sequel? Because I figured it was possible the second chapter could succeed. The first was a failure of execution more than anything else; the story could’ve worked but it was told in such a disastrous way that the flick became a serious clunker.

I’ve seen good sequels to bad movies before, so I figured Ball deserved a look. Does it do anything to surpass its predecessor? Nope. If anything, it’s a step down, as it comes across as an imitation of a flawed film.

Ball introduces us to Walter Weed (Tom Berenger), a soon-to-retire FBI information analyst. A low-level fed without much of a security clearance, Weed finds himself the target of a bounty. If someone kills Weed at 3 AM on April 19, the assassin will earn a tidy $3 million.

Why? The movie lets that question unfold as it depicts the plot to off Weed. FBI Supervisory Special Agent Zane Baker (Clayne Crawford) takes the lead in the attempt to keep Weed alive, while an array of assassins head to Chicago to kill the aging agent and collect the bounty. This group includes sexy Latina Ariella Martinez (Martha Higareda), surgical killer Finbar McTeague (Vinnie Jones), master of disguise Lazlo Soot (Tommy Flanagan) and crazed hillbillies the Tremor clan (Maury Sterling, Michael Parks, Autumn Reeser and C. Ernst Harth).

As was the case with the original Aces, Ball comes with cinematic potential. There’s nothing wrong with the concept of an assassin’s competition; it sets up a literally deadly rivalry and comes fraught with natural action and drama.

So with all that potential, why does Ball become such a bore? This happens largely because it barely attempts to tell a coherent story. Much of the film leaves us in anticipation of the climax in which all the assassins attack their target, and the flick uses that time poorly. After some basic exposition, we’re mostly left to simple while away the minutes until the inevitable finally occurs. Very little real character or story development takes place; the reels just fill time until it can get to the action.

When the mayhem finally arrives, we don’t really care anymore. Ball doesn’t stage the action in a poor manner, but it does nothing to create a particularly interesting set of circumstances. We get lots and lots of blood ‘n’ gore but little that I would call dramatic, exciting or interesting. The film devolves into violence for its own sake; with no real stake in the characters, we don’t particularly care what happens to them.

Attempts to make the story quirky go nowhere. That also marred the first film; both think they’re smarter and more clever than they are. If the flick stayed with a more basic take on the action tale, it might’ve worked better, but its attempts to play with the audience – most of which feel lifted directly from The Usual Suspects vibe – don’t go anywhere.

Add to that lackluster performances and Ball makes for a tedious 80-something minutes. It’s not a total loss: Higareda looks great in lingerie, and we occasionally see her in various states of undress. Otherwise, Ball provides stiff storytelling with lots of mayhem and little else.

Note that the disc includes both rated and unrated versions of Ball. The former goes for 1:26:02, while the latter lasts 1:28:02. I only watched the longer cut, so I can’t compare their differences, but I wanted to mention that both appeared here.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie boasted a solid transfer.

Sharpness usually looked very good. A few wide shots came across as slightly soft, but not to a significant degree. The majority of the flick was concise and accurate. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and edge enhancement failed to appear. I also didn’t see any unintentional source flaws.

Aces went with a stylized palette, as the colors tended toward the desaturated side. A few more lively/garish sequences occurred; the hues tended to be all over the place, though again, much of the film stayed with a subdued palette. The disc 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. I found little about which to complain here.

I also thought that the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Ball proved effective. With its hyper-stylized feel, the movie boasted many opportunities for exaggerated elements. These didn’t dominate, actually, as a fair amount of the movie stayed with general atmosphere; a lot of the flick focused on the build-up to the action scenes, and those didn’t offer a great deal of information.

Nonetheless, they used the speakers to create a good feeling for the various settings, and the more active scenes kicked the package into higher gear. Those blasted gunfire and explosions all around us to form a vivid setting.

No issues with audio quality occurred. Speech was consistently natural and concise, without edginess or other problems. Music sounded lively and full, while effects appeared accurate – or hyper-accurate, as the case dictated. Ball exaggerated punches, gunfire and many other elements; these blasted us with the appropriate impact. All of this created a soundtrack that suited the material.

When we move to the movie’s extras, we start with an audio commentary from director PJ Pesce and executive producer Joe Carnahan. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific track. They discuss story and editing, cast and performances, locations and sets, music, stunts, and a few other areas.

While we learn a few decent details here, the commentary usually bores. It comes packed wall to wall with praise: an “I love” here, a “that’s great” there, all of which add up to a whole lot of self-congratulation. Pesce and Carnahan also tell us how drunk they’re getting during the session, and one long gap shows up a little before the film’s halfway point.

That’s probably a good time to bail on the track. The piece never gives us a great deal of info, but the level of discourse sinks even lower after that extended break. If you’re interested in the flick, stick with the commentary until that gap and then move on with your life.

11 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 10 minutes, one second. The vast majority of these expand on the relationship between Weed and Baker; we also find an alternate ending. We also see short shots of some assassins, but Weed/Baker occupy almost all the space here. These clips essentially add up to extensions and additional exposition; they’re unnecessary.

Next comes a six-minute, 32-second Gag Reel. As I expected, these offer the usual assortment of flubbed lines and giggles. This is a pretty dull collection.

Five featurettes follow. Behind the Scenes with Joe Carnahan goes for six minutes, 29 seconds, as it includes notes from Carnahan, Pesce, co-writers Olatunde Osunsanmi and Olumide Odebunmi, executive producer Mike Elliott, and actors Maury Sterling and Christopher Michael Holley. “Scenes” looks at aspects of the first Aces movie and the development of the sequel. I could live without the hyperbole thrown at the original flick and Carnahan, but we get a few good details about the production of Ball.

In the 25-minute, 59-second Confessions of an Assassin, we hear from Pesce, Carnahan, Sterling, Holley, Elliott, armourer Rob Fournier, and actors Vinnie Jones, Tom Berenger, Clayne Crawford, Autumn Reeser, Martha Higareda, Carrie Keagan, Ernie Hudson, Michael Parks, Tommy Flanagan, David Richmond-Peck, and C. Ernst Harth. “Assassin” essentially acts as a video diary that follows the production. It doesn’t come with a concise look at aspects of the shoot; it just follows the flick through various scenes and takes us to the set. This approach lacks tons of great insight, but it lets us see the production through a good first-person perspective.

After this we get Ready, Aim, Fire: The Weapons of Smokin’ Aces 2. The four-minute, 17-second piece features Holley, Higareda, Jones, Reeser, Fournier, Sterling, Pesce, Crawford, Harth, and Richmond-Peck. “Aim” offers a rapid-fire look at all the guns and whatnot featured in the flick. It’s quick but reasonably effective.

Cue the Clown runs two minutes, 57 seconds and presents remarks from Holley, Richmond-Peck, Pesce, stunt supervisor Scott Ateah, 1st assistant SPFX Rob Paller, SPFX coordinator Darren Marcoux, and stuntman Matt Phillips. Like “Aim”, “Clown” runs through its subject in a quick but generally satisfying manner. We get a good take on the film’s oddest sequence.

Finally, the three-minute, 35-second The Bunker Mentality: Designing the Set includes notes from Pesce, Carnahan, Crawford, and production designer Chris August. As expected, we get a short look at the creation of the movie’s main location. Once again, we find a brief but fairly effective chat here.

Though I didn’t care for its predecessor, I hoped that Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball might produce a quality cinematic experience. Those dreams failed to come true, as the flick was little more than a loud, incoherent piece of action nonsense. The Blu-ray offers very good picture and audio along with a decent set of supplements, though the commentary disappoints. I can’t complain about this release, but the movie itself stinks.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main