DVD Review: Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball

Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball
Unrated DVD
Directed by P.J. Pesce
Starring Tom Berenger, Clayne Crawford, Tommy Flanagan, Maury Sterling, Martha Higareda
Universal Home Entertainment
Release Date: January 19, 2010

Direct-to-video sequels tend to put me ill at ease, and with good reason. More often than not these movies are cynical, cheapjack attempts by cash-strapped studios to squeeze every possible nickel out of even their most modest theatrical successes. Next to Walt Disney Pictures no other studio has been to the DTV sequel well more times than Universal Pictures, as their numerous quickie follow-ups to The Land Before Time, Darkman, Tremors, and American Pie have shown. I have nothing against movies bypassing cinemas and going direct to video store shelves; in the past many fine films, some much better than anything Hollywood has forced upon us, have made their premiere exclusively at our local Blockbuster Video or in the Redbox kiosk in front of the neighborhood Wal-Mart often because they”˜re the kind of movies that cannot be easily marketed into the moviegoer conscience like the cookie cutter fare that clogs the multiplex screens week in and week out. Plus every so often a rare sequel comes along that proves to be a cut above to the original (see The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, and Hostel Part II). But sequels to moderately profitable theatrical releases are as a rule made on budgets a fraction of what the originals were made for, and customarily they’re made without the participation of the filmmakers and cast that made the originals great (because they can”˜t be afforded). Leave it to Joe Carnahan, a firebrand filmmaking talent who makes his best movies outside the creative dead zone of Tinseltown, to accept the challenge of making a direct-to-video sequel the right way.

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