When I’m sent DVD’s to review, I feel I have a a sense of responsibility to make sure that I bring you the best and well rounded view that I possibly can. When straight-to-DVD sequel, Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball came through my letter box from Universal Pictures, I thought to myself…. I want to watch this but I haven’t seen the first one! That was soon rectified by bumping it up to the top of my LoveFilm list and off we went!

The original Smokin’ Aces had an ensemble cast which included Ryan Reynolds, Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Alicia Keys, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven and Chris Pine  as well as being directed  by Joe Carnahan. The second installment however was less impressive having just one member of the original cast in the form of Tommy Flanagan (the guy in Gladiator who was Russell Crowe’s side-kick) but does that mean the film wasn’t as good? Read on to find out….

I don’t think I can continue to review Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball without paying reference to it’s predecessor, especially as I watched them back-to-back. The original, as I said above had a stunning cast which was led by Ryan Reynolds and I’m not going to give away any spoilers but the end of the original movie was genius and caught me off-guard. When I found out that the sequel was going to be a straight-to-DVD movie, I hoped it might continue where the original left off as I had a few unanswered questions, even if different actors played the parts by a-listers in the first movie. Suffice to say it doesn’t!

Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball is directed by P.J. Pesce and as well as Tommy Flanagan, stars Clayne Crawford, Vinnie Jones, Tom Berenger, Ernie Hudson, Autumn Reeser, Carrie Keagan, Keegan Connor Tracy and Martha Higareda. The connection to the first movie is that Walter Weed (Berenger) has a price on his head and a group of FBI agents are assigned to protect him.

I think Pesce must have spent a lot of time studying the first movie as he seems to have kept many of the pieces that worked for the second installment. The first movie had loads of clever cuts between characters / scenes and the way in which the story is pieced together has to be seamless as, through the story, we’re following 5 different groups of actors and as an audience, could easily get lost with the who is who. I think the storyline for the second film was actually better than the first and had the potential to deliver. The cast weren’t as well known so rather than having another a-lister show up scene after scene, the film relied on good acting to pull it off, and I’m pleased to report that I think it did it very well.

Clayne Crawford was a pretty good lead bouncing off his fellow actors, especially Christopher Michael Holley who was able to bring some comedic value to the movie as well as educating us in some jazz! Although the original had an awful lot of death in it, resulting in it’s 18 certificate, it remained comical in places and again, the second movie manages to keep that light-hearted feel throughout. At one point, one of the groups of assassin’s decides to launch clowns (yes, real ones) out of the cannon that they stole from the local circus strapping dynamite to them as if they were grenades. I’m not sure we should find this sort of thing funny as an audience but it’s hard not to generate a rye smile when you see it! The amount of amunition in this movie is crazy, so much so that there is a whole section on the extras dedicated to the sheer amount of artil’ that they bring to the party!

Vinnie Jones was an unexpected arrival for me and he plays his part well as ‘The Surgeon’ with an introduction into the movie like no other!I did enjoy it and I would recommend it to friends. I might even watch it again as I think there is quite a lot going on that you could miss first time round, especially in the fight sequences. Some of the circumstances in how the movie is pieced together is a bit ropey but I don’t think in a film like this which has a comedic edge, it mattered too much.

If you’ve seen the first movie and want another fix of much of the same sort of mayhem, then Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball is probably one you should be adding to your list of movies to buy or rent in 2010. Would I watch a third movie if they make one, absolutely!

It’s out to buy next week on 25th January. Click here to buy through Amazon.