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March 30, 2010
Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
None23/3/2010UniversalP.J. Pesce
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
VC-1DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1R18+Tom Berenger

THE MOVIE
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Smokin' Aces 2 is on Blu-Ray now.

Smokin' Aces was an over the top action movie that proved a fairly big box-office hit grossing $US57 million worldwide on a $US17 million production budget. That was impressive, but the movie then went on to become a massive seller on DVD as well which cemented the "need" for a sequel, or in this case a prequel movie so that some of the characters in the first movie could return. So what's this prequel, Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball about?

Walter Weed (Tom Berenger) is an unassuming desk jockey at the FBI when the Bureau uncovers a plot to assassinate him at exactly 3am one morning - but why at that time? A team of degenerate, psychotic assassins dispatched by mystery man Hal Leuco to win a huge bounty includes a resourceful beauty who has a unique method of killing her prey, a power-tool wielding psychopath and a deadly master of disguise.

So this is a prequel to the first movie, but in reality it's on that in so far as it allows a couple of the characters from that movie to return in this one. Having said that we're not even talking the main actors including Ray Liotta, Chris Pine, Ben Affleck, Common or Ryan Reynolds, but rather smaller actors such as Tommy Flanagan who plays Lazlo Soot and Christopher Michael Holley as Malcolm Little. Character development is minimal at best so you really could have bumped in an entirely new cast and not really lost anything in the process while some characters, such as the Tremor Family, come across as annoying rather then comedic. Still I'm sure there's an audience that will love to see these characters on-screen again.

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Prepare for a gunfight around the bar.
As for the plot. Well we actually enjoyed this sequel more then the original movie, but that's not saying it's great. It's pretty much a cookie cutter plot for the sole purpose of getting a group of whacky assassins in the same location together for some massively over the top action sequences. These action sequences are pretty good to with plenty of gunfire and quite a few (horrendous looking CG) explosions too.

Typically direct-to-DVD (or Blu-Ray) movies are usually of a lesser quality to theatrical releases, or don't have a broad enough appeal to warrant the release. We were quite pleasantly surprised to find that this movie is quite entertaining with a decent storyline. In fact, we found this movie to be just as entertaining as the original movie so check it out.

VIDEO
Smokin' Aces 2: Assassin's Ball is presented on Blu-Ray at 1.78:1 using the VC-1 codec. No doubt, the decision to make the film fit your HDTV was, in part, due to the direct-to-DVD nature of this release. The 1920 x 1080p image is fairly good, a little inconsistent in terms of grain level and sharpness but overall there shouldn't be too many complaints about this release.

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Vinnie Jones as Finbar McTeague.
If we are to pick something then we have to say that the colours in this film - particularly indoors in the van, the bar or the bunker - look a little warm with flesh tones not retaining a natural, or consistent, look throughout the films runtime. This could perhaps be forgiven in the bar as there are a lot of red lights, but not in the other indoor scenes.

AUDIO
As you can imagine a movie such as Smokin' Aces 2 is bold and over the top in terms of audio design. Fortunately Universal have lavished this disc with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (24-bit/48Khz) and it sounds exactly as you would expect - wild. Gunfire and explosions are brutal and there is aggressive use of surround sound channels as well as LFE.

Besides the main English Track the Smokin' Aces 2 Blu-Ray includes French, Italian, German and Spanish DTS tracks encoded at 768kbps. We only brielfy sampled these tracks, but they sounded fairly solid and those requiring those tracks shouldn't have any major issues. Subtitles are provided in English, Grench, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish. We sampled the English Subtitles which were clear, accurate to the dialogue in the movie, and had good pacing.

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Smokin' Aces 2 has plenty of gunplay...
EXTRAS
This Blu-Ray disc contains a few extras which fans may wish to check out.

Commentary with Executive Producer Joe Carnahan and Director P.J. Pesce: It's not the most entertaining of commentaries, a little dry at times, but there is quite a bit of information here about the actors, the script and the production.

Deleted Scenes (10:01): A series of deleted scenes are presented here in Standard Definition but their actual content wouldn't actually add much to the overall film.

Gag Reel (6:32): Nothing too special, this is your standard on-set goofs and mucking around. Some amusing parts but seen one, seen them all.

Behind the Scenes with Joe Carnahan (6:30/HD): The Executive Producer talks about the first movie, how it was slightly misunderstood and how this second movie was made as a prequel to bring back some of the characters from the first movie.

Confessions of an Assassin (25:59/HD): While it's a little promotional this really is a fairly decent look at the making of this movie with plenty of on-set footage and interviews with cast and crew. Not the best making of documentary we've ever seen, but there's some fun moments here and it's worth a look.

Ready, Aim, Dire: The Weapons of Smokin' Aces 2 (4:17/HD): A brief look at the weapons used by the various characters in the movie. Interesting, but all to brief.

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Martha Higareda gets her guns out!
Cue The Clown (2:57/HD): It's very brief, but this featurette looks at how they pulled off one of the funniest moments in the movie which has to do with midget clowns entering the bar.

The Bunker Mentality: Designing The Set (3:35/HD): The bunker set is one of the largest in the film, and this featurette looks at how they built this massive set which holds some major action sequences.

My Scenes (HD): Finally we have My Scenes where you can bookmark your favourite scenes from the movie.

OVERALL
Smokin' Aces 2: Assassin's Ball is a pretty decent mindless popcorn flick. Don't go in expecting anything deep and meaningful but you may have a bit of fun with this movie which is given a fairly decent Blu-Ray release. Worth a look if you love action movies.

Review By: Dave Warner

THE MOVIE
7/10
THE VIDEO
8/10
THE AUDIO
8/10
THE EXTRAS
5/10
OVERALL
7/10

Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Universal. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.