Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

A sequel, or more accurately a ‘prequel’ to ‘Smokin’ Aces’. Hmmmm…. I remember digging ‘Smokin’ Aces’ but that was four years ago and the only thing that was sticking in my memory was Alicia Keys and her hooker costume and Taraji P. murdering FBI agents with her mini rocket launcher. So I had to go back and read what I said about that movie and now it’s all kind of coming back to me. I probably should watch it again. But this is about ‘Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins Ball’, which I guess they probably should’ve called ‘Smokin’ Aces Zero’ since it’s an alleged prequel even though the prequel aspects of this movie are rarely, if ever, highlighted. Anyway, what we have here is a straight to DVD sequel and we make it no secret that we love us some straight to DVD movies. This straight to DVD sequel probably would’ve been a little better if it weren’t saddled with the weight of trying to live up to its more bombastic, more entertaining albeit somewhat less lucid bigger, stronger brother.

Similar to the original film there is a hit put on somebody with a payout of some heavy loot to the hitter, which brings as many hitters out of the woodwork as this movie’s budget could afford. This time around the hit is on a crippled up mid-level FBI employee named Walter Weed (Tom Berenger). For the life of him Walter has no idea why anybody would want him dead since, at best, he has mid-level clearance and is simply winding his time down to retirement. Regardless, the chief agent on the case, Agent Baker (Clayne Crawford), is allotting his best men and top resources to relocate Walter to a safe house bunker in Chi where he should be well protected until the mandatory cutoff time expires that has been setup by the mysterious figure who has sanctioned this hit.

As far as our hitters go who are chasing this three million large we have femme fatale and mistress of poison Ariella Martinez (Martha Higareda), then there’s The Surgeon Finbar McTeague (Vinnie Jones), we also have master of disguise Lazlo Soot (Tommy Flannagan) and finally more members of the Extreme Redneck Tremor family, most notably Kaitlin ‘AK-47’ Tremor (Autumn Resser). So these killers descend upon Chicago with murder on their mind to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of infiltrating this intensely fortified bunker and getting their loot.

Of course all isn’t what it seems. There must be some reason that some mysterious figure is going to these extreme lengths to see the seemingly benign Walter Weed dead. Right? You would think.

For the first half hour, probably longer even, this movie was anything but ‘smokin’. It was mostly a lot of sitting around and meeting people and more sitting around and watching FBI agents funnin’ with each other and all kinds of non-smokin’ stuff. But this is a lower budget movie and explosions and car chases and shootouts tend to cost money so why not try and build up some kind of story, which is cheap, and which is something that the original film wasn’t all that concerned with. The only issue I had with this particular approach was that all of this story build up was terribly tedious. I know it was supposed to be slick and clever but for the most part it just felt like fluffy filler until they could finally get around to the good part.

By the time we do get to the good part ‘Assassins Ball’ does get a little better. Director P.J. Pesce shoots a pretty good action scene as brains and bodies and limbs and exploding clowns were detonating all over the place. The last movie I saw from Mr. Pesce was that ‘Lost Boys’ sequel since apparently P.J. Pesce is your go to guy if you need a low budget Straight to DVD movie shot. Autumn Reeser was in that too. I wonder is she dating P.J. Pesce? That might explain why she was flashing her titties in this movie. Or maybe she’s tired of these cute little girl roles even though she’s like thirty. This should help her get free of that. This movie craps all over that awful ‘Lost Boys’ movie by the way. And how much does a straight to DVD film director make anyway? Somebody let me know. Alas, I have regrettably digressed. Similar to the original movie there was also a little twist at the end of this, though it wasn’t much of a twist since most people who attended the class ‘movie twists 101’ will figure out this twists since it wasn’t crafted with the cleverest of care.

The main problem with this ‘Smokin’ Aces’ sequel is that while it is a serviceable run of the mill Straight to DVD movie, it’s just not much of a ‘Smokin’ Aces’ movie. Joe Carnaghan, who directed the first movie, has put his imprint on this one as a producer but this movie had very little of that ‘Smokin’ Ace’ vibe going on, and to be honest with you the original was nothing BUT style and vibe.

If you watch these kinds of movies, like I watch these kind of movies, then you know how to set your expectation levels beforehand, which is usually low with the hope that you will be pleasantly surprised. ‘Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins Ball’ met expectations. Completely.

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