Aces N' Eights
R1 - America - Genius Products
Review written by and copyright: Andreas Petersen (10th May 2008).
The Film

2007 saw the return of the western. We got films like "3:10 to Yuma", "There Will Be Blood", and "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford", some of the best movies in an already impressive year for film. It seemed inevitable that, like the horror film, this genre would be exploited into a string of cheap strait-to-video films. "Aces n’ Eights", directed by Craig R. Baxley, is the latest entrance into the arena. So how does it fair? Not well at all.

The film centers around Luke Rivers (Casper Van Dien), a retired gunslinger turned rancher, defending his land against the forces of a corrupt railroad system. Along his side is Thurman (Ernest Borgnine), an old prospector, and Noah (Jake Thomas), some kid who hangs around the ranch. Riley (Jack Noseworthy), a man working for the railroads, dances between the lines of good and bad, trying to help both sides come to a peaceful conclusion. Also, a hired gun by the name of D.C. Cracker (Bruce Boxleitner) serves on both sides of the war as well, acting as the well-intentioned maverick. Yes, his name is D.C. Cracker. There is a character named D.C. Cracker in this film.

Where to begin on what’s wrong with this movie? It has been a while since I’ve seen a “major” production like this executed so amateurishly. At times, the camera was inappropriately out of focus, artifacts were left on the screen, dialogue was drowned out by excessively loud sound effects, and I even saw the shadow of the cameraman a few times. This really wasn’t complimented by the terrible acting all around (especially Jake Thomas, who was just abysmal). The only “diamond in the rough” would be veteran Borgnine, who seems to be the only person acting. His performance however only serves to emphasize how little everyone else seems to care.

This brings me to another huge problem I had with this movie. When I see a western movie with Johnny Rico on the cover, slapped with a brand reading “UNRATED”, I have half a heart to expect some gnarly and brutal deaths. I mean, this is a western, isn’t it? However, all the violence really happens off screen, save for one part where a guy gets lit on fire, and a few instances where someone is shot, although in such cases no blood is expelled, only a white powder. This movie doesn’t contain a single curse word, juicy kill, or nudie shot. There is no reason for it to be "unrated". This is an obvious move to lure people into picking up the movie, expecting to see thrills too wild for the theaters, when really this is on-par with a made-for-TV movie. I honestly can’t see this movie getting a higher rating that a PG-13.

So what you have here is a sloppily made film, containing no real redeeming features, attempting to trick people into buying it under false pretenses. So what are the positives? I’m drawing a blank.

Video

The film is offered in a 1.78:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer. The actual video quality ranges from decent to outright terrible. There are moments where shots will seem as though they were shot on an old Hi-8 video camera at night, and inserted into a movie with other scenes shot on film. Moments like this are incredibly awkward and peppered throughout the movie. Also, while some scenes look clean enough, randomly cigarette burns will appear in the picture, or a line will sprawl from the top of the screen down to the bottom. Overall, a shoddy transfer.

Audio

The film is delivered in an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track. Again, like the picture, the sound would be OK at times, but at others, sounds would peak, seem to be faded, or be completely drowned out by other noises. As stated before, there is more than one instance where I couldn’t hear dialogue clearly enough to understand what was being said. Also, at times in the film, it seems as though the dialogue track is hiding behind the music (if that makes any sense), in which the dialogue should be up front.
The disc does not include any optional subtitles.

Extras

Genius Products has offered a few extras that include three featurettes and a bonus trailer, which are examined below:

First up is an "Interview With a Legend – A Chat with Oscar Winner Ernest Borgnine" featurette, running for 12 minutes and 38 seconds, in which the actor spends ten minutes justifying why he, an Oscar winner, is in such a piece of crap. He says he always wanted to be in a western, and he really loved the script. These words seem completely hollow to me, as if he knows that I know that he knows the movie is crap.

Next, there’s "On Set with Casper Van Dien" featurette, running for 16 minutes and 12 seconds. This is shot exactly the same way as the Borgnine interview, again, an actor talking about why they are in the movie. Dien claims that he was drawn to the title, and as a poker player, appreciated it. I got decently bored with this interview after five minutes, but had to sit through another eleven minutes!

A “Wild Bunch” of Surprises – Ernie Gets a Gift", running for 1 minute and 9 seconds, is a short featurrette in which crew members on the film give Borgnine the prop gun he used in "The Wild Bunch" (1969) as a gift. Borgnine seems appreciative, and it ends. Not a whole lot to say about it. Maybe if I felt Aces kept with the spirit of the classic 1969 film, I’d appreciate this short feature more.

Lastly, the disc opens up with a bonus trailer for "Lone Rider", running for 1 minute and 46 seconds.

Overall

The Film: F Video: C Audio: C- Extras: B- Overall: D

 


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