Review of “Smokin’Aces”

 
 

** warning: spoilers **

Alicia Keys and Taraji P. Henson playing lesbian assassins would be reason enough to see a movie – and in the case of Smokin' Aces, if it were true, it would be the only reason to see this film. Unfortunately, it's not: Keys' character may be gay, based on one easy-to-miss comment, but the romantic lesbian feelings expressed by Henson's character remain entirely unrequited.

Advertising this film as containing lesbians may serve to attract an audience of heterosexual males prone to fantasies including lesbian hit women, but Smokin'Aces' lesbian content remains just that—a fantasy, and this is only one of many promises the film makes but fails to deliver.

Smokin' Aces opens with FBI agents Donald Carruthers (Ray Liotta) and Richard Messner (Ryan Reynolds) staking out the house of notorious, and terminally ill, mob boss Primo Sparazza (Joseph Ruskin). They overhear a conversation between two of Sparazza's subordinates who have learned that Sparazza has promised to pay a mysterious Swede $1,000,000 to kill a Las Vegas entertainer with mob ties, Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jeremy Piven).

The two plan to double-cross Sparazza by dispatching killers of their own to beat the Swede to the murder and collect the money themselves. There is one catch — Sparazza wants Israel 's heart removed from his body and delivered to him.

In order to double-cross their boss, the mobsters turn to Loretta Wyman (Davenia McFadden, who did play a lesbian in Stranger Inside), responsible for securing jobs for Georgia Sykes (Keyes) and Sharice Watters (Henson) a pair of assassins with reputations as highly skilled hit women. While its no surprise to see lesbian, or possibly lesbian, characters who are also murderers, Sykes and Watters, although they kill for a living, rate low on the psychotic scale in this film.

Joining them in the race to find Israel is Jack Dupree (Ben Affleck), a bail bondsman, Pasquale Acosta, (Nestor Carbonell) a man famous for his torture techniques and for chewing his fingers to the bone to avoid being fingerprinted, Lazlo Soot (Tommy Flanagan) a master of disguise, and most deranged of all, three Neo-Nazi brothers called the Tremors (Chris Pine, Kevin Durand, and Maury Sterling). Far from being stable himself, Israel is a drug addicted man of excess; the audience first meets him as he wakes up in his suite surrounded by drug paraphernalia and a handful of passed-out mostly naked women.

Sykes and Watters plan to gain access to Israel 's penthouse suite by having Sykes dress as a prostitute and join the women Israel regularly summons to his room. Meanwhile, Watters will remain in a room at a neighboring hotel and provide backup to Sykes by manning a large gun aimed at the penthouse. When they go to book a room in the hotel, the clerk asks them if they would like one bed or two. Sykes answers that they are not together and they would like two beds, while Watters starts joking with her and says, “Baby, why are you being like that?”

The group of prostitutes that has just left Israel's room parades by them and Watters expresses her disgust to the clerk, telling her it is because of such women that men do not respect women. She begins to raise her voice and make a scene; when Sykes attempts to quiet her she says, “What? She's sleeping, I'm trying to wake this bitch up.” Possibly designed to reflect as many lesbian stereotypes as possible, Watters is both a dangerous killer as well as an unstable ultra-feminist. Sykes has no patience for this, rolls her eyes, and requests a key to the mini-bar.

Watters' position is hypocritical as she stands to benefit from Sykes dressing as a prostitute and moments later is clearly excited by watching Sykes change into her prostitute costume. Sykes' sexuality remains largely a mystery throughout the film; the only hint that she may be a lesbian occurs when Watters asks her if she is “still messing around with that light-skinned girl?” and when Sykes answers no, Watters tells her, “Its ok, we have all the love we need right here.”

Whatever Sykes' exact position is, it is clear she does not return Watters' interest.

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