Smokin’ Aces

No brains, but tons of bullets.

Director Joe Carnahan, a noted master of disaster, lets his cast unload all their holsters, and then some, in this wild ‘n woolly Vegas-set shoot-em-up.

The big names are aplenty, but there’s no guarantee of making it out alive, even if you sit atop the marquee.

The plot, or what there is of one, centers on a mad scramble to either kill, or protect a magician who’s about to go stool pigeon on the Mafia.

The coocoo bird has plenty of tales to tell once he starts singing, unless he gets plugged first.


Mulan (2020)

No Mushu, no biggie.

While Eddie Murphy’s fast-talking mini-dragon rules the animated version, this live-action remake is much more in the vein of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Director Niki Caro unleashes all the stunt people Disney’s money can buy, with action scenes galore, both epic and intimate.

Every frame pops with color in one of the best-looking films of 2020, with lead actress Liu Yifei delivering nicely-understated work opposite a who’s-who of genre stars ranging from Gong Li to Jet Li.

I’m not generally a huge fan of the House of Mouse remaking all their films, but this one has zing.



Violent and poetic.

Director Johnnie To is one of the best active filmmakers in the world, a man who mixes and mashes genres, creating bullet-strewn masterpieces.

One of his best is this tale of hardened hit men, bound by honor, beset by greed, coming full tilt in a battle to obtain a literal ton of ill-gotten gold.

Making most American action films seem like child’s play, it pays homage to spaghetti westerns and Martin Scorsese in equal measure, and the result is like a series of rapid-fire punches to the kidneys.

Prepare to be entertained and left breathless.


Jackie Chan’s First Strike

He works hard for his money.

Maybe more than any action star of his era, Jackie Chan sacrificed for his fans, repeatedly putting his body into the danger zone for our thrills and amusement.

Here, he jumps out of helicopters, swims with sharks, and gets into a knock-down brawl involving ladders, and never flinches once.

Or uses a stunt man, since Chan, in the tradition of Asian martial arts stars, has almost always done his own work — and has the x-rays to prove it.

Working with director Stanley Tong, a frequent collaborator, he delivers another winner with this one.


Boss Level

Punch your way to nirvana.

Every morning, Frank Grillo’s world-weary special ops dude wakes to another guy trying to take his head off with a sword.

From there, it’s on to the hovering helicopter shooting 10,001 bullets into his bedroom, and a motley crew of assassins lining up to collect the bounty for making his head bounce off the floor.

A more violent version of Groundhog Day, this time loop action-fest is solid disposable entertainment, the kind of film you half watch through sleepy eyes on a Sunday morning.

Pull up the blankies, let your brain take a vacation, and enjoy.