An eye for an eye: Smokin’ Aces

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I just got back from watching the 2007 action flick, “Smokin’ Aces”…it may be old news in the West but it just came out here in Taiwan. I don’t usually find the need to blog about everything I do and see, what’s on TV, what I had for dinner, *(awesome nightmarket baked potato with corn and ham), and all that stuff, but something about the movie struck a chord, and not a good one.

Smokin’ Aces is a fun and bloody movie about people killing lots of other people. But it was more than just fun, it had a sour edge, a lot of personal tragedy and loss, and if I had to pin it down, I’d say the overall theme of the film was revenge. And not only blind rage mad killing, although there was some. I’m talking about long, premeditated, “I don’t care what happens to me or anybody else but I’m upset and I’m gonna kill somebody right now” kind of payback.

This is includes the very powerful finishing touch, in the final scene after all the twists have been explained, and we learn that the whole bloody affair had been a mistake and that lot of people had died so that an FBI turned mafia crime lord could get a heart transplant and maybe help take down the mob, that one young FBI guy, angry and sad over his comrade’s death, pulls the plug on the whole operation. He single-handedly ensured that all those agents and police men and hotel security officers all died for absolutely nothing. Not just a potential nothing, a devastatingly retroactive hell in a handbasket nothing. And it seemed like this was the character we were supposed to empathize with the most, the handsome and tragic young hero, honoring his partner’s death by wreaking havoc on a perceived enemy, and sacrificing his own future. Absolute selflessness.

I may have an unorthodox view of Christian history, but I’ve got no problem with most of their ethical guidelines. My favorite continues to be “Turn the other cheek.” One of my favorite quotes is “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” which seems to have been demonstrated in Smokin’ Aces, except they spun it so that being blind, selfish, impulsive and ruggedly handsome, was really, really cool. I usually end up isolating the strong Christian undertones of cinema, and wondering who was footing the bill, so I am surprised to see such an anti-Christian (anti-moral) film. But then it gets confusing.

Being stubborn, angry, and self-righteous is how Christianity spread so quickly. It may be why it continues to spread today. The martyrs particularly were royal pains in the ass. (I know this is controversial, but try to read any first hand accounts of first century martyrdom. Some of them provoked Roman authorities on purpose because they were so eager to be martyred.) The film makers may have been trying to grasp the true meaning of friendship – you killed my friend, now I’m gonna jack you up. Which could, I suppose, be interpreted as a virtue. But in the end, what you’re always gonna get is a hotel full of bodies.