When I saw Pulp Fiction back in 1994, I was convinced that its brand of daring, post-modern intelligence and sheer, movie-crazed enthusiasm would usher in a new era of cinema -- a golden age of joyous, raucous movies that would be alive in new and exciting ways. I once believed in the tooth fairy as well. What actually happened is what I should have expected: a tidal wave of half-baked knockoffs, lame attempts to copy the formula behind Pulp Fiction instead of the thought process that made it possible.

Someone should come up with a name for this Quentin Tarantino rip-off subgenre of action films, and it should be something that takes into account the fact that there have been good ones (Bound, Go, Snatch, Amores Perros), as well as bad ones (Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, 2 Days in the Valley, 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, Knockaround Guys). It should also take into account that these films have kept coming more than a decade past the original -- much longer even than the Star Wars knockoffs lasted. In the past year or two, we've seen Domino, Running Scared, Lucky Number Slevin and now Smokin' Aces, from director Joe Carnahan.