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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball
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Posted January 27 2010 - 08:27 AM
Year: 2010 (Direct to Video)
Length: 1 hr 26 mins (R-Rated) 1 hr 28 mins (Unrated)
Genre: Action/Dark Comedy/Drama
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
BD Resolution: 1080p
BD Video Codec: VC-1 (@ an average 25 mbps)
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 4.0mbps)
French DTS 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Film Rating: R (Bloody Violence, Language)
Release Date: January 19, 2010
Starring: Tom Berenger, Clayne Crawford, Tommy Flanagan, Maury Sterling and Vinnie Jones
Executive Producer: Joe Carnahan
Directed by: P.J. Pesce
Film Rating: ½ /5
Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball is the logical result of the moderate financial success of the first Smokin’ Aces: a low-budget direct-to-video prequel. Where the first film was a frustrating blend of Tarantino-esque comedy/gunplay and some aggressive stylizations, it at least had several strong cast members and a level of competence in much of its dialogue. This time around, things are operating at a much lower level, across the board. The cast here is undistinguished, with a few supporting players from the first film mixed with an undistinguished group led by Tom Berenger, who turns in a fairly bland performance. The script this time around is a prequel (which is the only way the filmmakers could make use of several characters killed in the first film) revolving around a now-familiar scenario: A bunch of quirky assassins converge on a common target, who has more to him than meets the eye. As it was with the first film, the scenario was already derivative. With this prequel, the story just feels rehashed. The action sequences here are much smaller and much less interesting than the first film, and the whole enterprise just feels low-budget. Even the look of the movie is clearly that of a lower budget HD video shoot. Given all of these issues, I am hard-pressed to find any reason to recommend this Blu-ray, even for fans of the first film.
Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball has just been released on Blu-ray and standard definition DVD in concert with the first film. The Blu-ray release has all the same extras as the standard definition DVD, except that the featurettes are presented in 1080p high definition and the movie itself gets high definition transfers in picture and sound.
VIDEO QUALITY 3/5
Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball is presented in a 1080p VC-1 1.78:1 transfer that quickly reveals the HD video limitations of the source material. The photography all has a vaguely video feel to it, without any of the depth or range that a solid film print would have. Now, this is not a fault of the HD transfer, which is why I have not taken off any more points from the score here. But the fact remains that the transfer doesn’t lie about the visual shortcomings of this release. I should note that I am watching the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor and is having issues, please post them on this thread.
AUDIO QUALITY 3 ½/5
Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English, along with standard DTS 5.1 mixes in French and Spanish. Like the first film, the prequel has an aggressive and loud audio mix that throws both music and gunfire around the surround channels quite liberally, while giving the subwoofer a healthy workout. The sound here is actually the one decent quality to this movie.
SPECIAL FEATURES 1 ½/5
The Blu-Ray presentation of Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball comes with the usual BD-Live connectivity and My Scenes functionality, as well as the new pocket BLU functionality, in addition to the featurettes, deleted scenes, commentary and gag reel from the standard definition release.
Feature Commentary with Joe Carnahan and Director P.J. Pesce – A scene-specific commentary is included here, with Carnahan and director P.J. Pesce watching the movie together. As an interesting sidenote, the movie was apparently titled Blowback throughout production and up to the time of this commentary, with the change to Assassins’ Ball only happening very late in the process. (Carnahan notes at the end of the commentary that he’s on the verge of going off to direct the new A Team movie, which gives an effective date for the production.) Carnahan’s level of involvement in the project becomes clear as he begins discussing various shots, edits, story ideas and other contributions he brought to the project. Both men seem quite pleased with the movie, and Pesce comes across as surprisingly confident, given the clear content and quality issues of the piece.
Deleted Scenes – (10:01, 480p, Non-Anamorphic) About ten minutes of deleted material is presented in standard definition, including additional dialogue at the film’s opening and an alternate ending. The scenes are presented in one bunch, with no chapters or any other means of separating one scene from the others.
Gag Reel – (6:32, 480p, Non-Anamorphic) Here we have six and a half minutes of blown lines and giggles.
Behind the Scenes with Joe Carnahan – (6:30, 1080p) This featurette focuses on Joe Carnahan and his involvement with the project. Much of this consists of interview snippets with Carnahan or video footage of him on the set.
Confessions of an Assassin – (25:59, 1080p) This is a more standard making-of featurette that includes the usual interviews intercut with movie footage and on-set video.
Ready, Aim, Fire: The Weapons of Smokin’ Aces 2 – (4:17, 1080p) This quick featurette focuses on the gunplay in the movie.
Cue the Clown – (2:57, 1080p) This short featurette focuses on the sequence where a bomb-laden clown is detonated in the upstairs bar area of our heroes’ hideout.
The Bunker Mentality: Designing The Set – (3:35, 1080p) This featurette goes through the design of the film’s primary set – a basement speakeasy turned bunker.
BD-Live - The more general BD-Live screen is accessible via the menu, which makes various online materials available, including tickers, trailers and special events.
My Scenes - The usual bookmarking feature is included here.
Pocket BLU – This new Blu-ray feature is available on the disc, if you have an iPhone or iPod Touch.
There are two versions of the film on the disc. One is the theatrical release, and the other adds another 2 minutes of material.
The usual promotional ticker is present on the main menu, but can be toggled off at your discretion. The film and the special features are subtitled in English, Spanish and French.
IN THE END...
Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball is a movie that has me struggling for a reason to recommend it. I must acknowledge that fans of the first film may wish to rent it out of curiosity, but it really doesn’t hold up either on its own or as a prequel.
January 27, 2010.