Review

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

3 stars

Ali

12th June 2005

I want to have sex with Angelina Jolie. Sorry folks, that's all I can think about at the moment, I've got Angie on the brain. Those lips... those eyes... the way she casually squeezes the trigger on a Mach-9... Christ... give me three, maybe four minutes and I'll get back to you so we can start this thing.

Right, sorry about that. So... Mr. & Mrs. Smith then? It's perhaps one of the most lightweight of the 'big summer movies' headed our way, despite having perhaps the two most beautiful people in the world in the two starring roles (Ms Jolie looks so beautiful, at times her face actually looks computer-generated). You might think you know all about this film already, simply from flicking through the pages of Heat magazine - whether or not Brad and Angelina are actually knocking boots in real life, it's certainly not done the movie any harm in the publicity stakes (although Jennifer Aniston probably isn't taking it too lightly). It's been a turbulent development period for director Doug Liman, with Nicole Kidman dropping out early, and the amount of writers called in to tinker with the script verges on the ludicrous. Despite all this, and having Akiva 'I wrote the chode that was Batman & Robin' Goldsman on producing duty, Mr. & Mrs. Smith is marginally enjoyable fare, with Liman's trademark sparkle offsetting some genuinely good chemistry between the two leads.

John and Jane Smith are married, living a mundane suburban life, eating awful food, bickering about curtains and suffering a sex life more barren than the Gobi desert. Unbeknownst to each other, both John and Jane are elite assassins, popping out for a few minutes to pop off the latest hit before racing home for an evening soirťe with the neighbours. When the couple are unwittingly hired to wipe out the same mark (an underused Adam Brody aka Seth from The O.C.) they discover each other's identities and set about dissolving the marriage in the only way they know how. With lots of guns. I won't pretend to have heard of 'Prizzi's Honour' which smartass movie buffs claim it parodies, but there's definitely a True Lies meets War of the Roses vibe to pick up on.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a movie of two halves - the relationship between the couple when they're blissfully unaware of their spouses' extra-marital activities, and the resulting fallout when they're exposed. It's the first half of the movie where Liman really shines, with the couple going through the motions by day and playing at international super spies by night. One key scene, when John and Jane convene at the dinner table after eventually figuring out each other's dark secret, is soaked with tension as they size each other up like eagles circling their prey (the "I missed you honey" gag proves that the simplest lines really are the ones that work best). Unfortunately, once the penny drops and the fists start flying (to the sounds of Express Yourself, no less), Mr. & Mrs. Smith slowly descends into the kind of generic action flick that you so desperately hoped it wouldn't be.

Liman's strengths are in directing snappy dialogue and effortless interplay between the main characters, which explains why the first half of the movie works so well. But when each new explosion is shoved in your face and the requisite car chase and climactic shoot-out rear their ugly heads, you begin to wonder what happened to the man behind the heart-racing action scenes of The Bourne Identity. Frighteningly, I even wondered what a director like Michael Bay might have done with the script (don't worry, it soon passed and I am now feeling better). Quite simply, Brad and Angelina are far more interesting when they're trying kick seven shades of shit out of each other than when they decide they love each other after all. There's nothing sadistic about it, it's just a much better dynamic watching the two leads take chunks out of each other. Well, would you rather watch them declare their undying love for each other? That's what reading Heat magazine is for.

It could well have been a disaster had the two leads not been on fine form: Pitt now has his typical cool-but-goofy guy act (first seen in Ocean's Eleven) down to a tee, and Jolie must be relishing the fact she got such a plum role without having to a) get naked for it, and b) spit out some of the atrocious one-liners found in the Tomb Raider series. Despite the general banality of the unnecessary car chase scene, watching the couple divulge their deepest darkest secrets while trying to evade the pursuing hitmen is hilarious, with John's revelation of a previous marriage coming at a particularly inopportune moment. It's these moments of dark humour throughout that rescue Mr. & Mrs. Smith from being a mere footnote on Liman's CV and exhibit A in the Pitts' no-doubt expensive divorce case.

Not exactly a huge success then, but given the astoundingly treacherous backstabbing of Liman by his cast and crew, plus a refusal to follow the unwritten rule that real-life on-screen couples share absolutely zero chemistry, Mr. & Mrs. Smith remains a film worth seeing. I suppose it's a little like a marriage - it's all fun and games until you start hitting your partner, then it's all downhill from there.

More:  Action  Comedy  Romance  Hitmen  Sex  Violence
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