What do you get when you cross True Lies (but with both spouses secretly working as spies) and that timeless classic “Assassins” (but with less sexual tension than there was between Stallone and Banderas)? Doug Liman’s latest exercise in cool, entitled “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” even though it has nothing to do with the 1941 Hitchcock film.
John (Brad Pitt) and Jane (Angelina Jolie) Smith met five or six years ago in Bogota, pretended to be a couple to escape the army and ended up keeping pretending for, um, five or six years. While they know that their whole relationship is based on a lie, what they’re unaware of is that they are still misrepresenting themselves. Jane thinks her husband is a construction contractor and John thinks his wife works on Wall Street, but they’re actually both assassins employed by competing firms. Their marriage has grown routine, their sex life is almost non-existent and they get on each other’s nerves, but those become moot points when you find yourself having to kill your significant other!
The screenplay by Simon Kinberg is not perfect, stalling a tad in the second act and never making a convincing case for 1) how two hi-tech spy agencies couldn’t figure out that their top gun has been sleeping with the enemy for five or six years, and 2) how Adam Brody’s character fits into all this (dig his Fight Club t-shirt, though). Nonetheless, the premise is juicy and Liman makes sure all the big set pieces are a lot of fun, however over the top. I like how John and Jane discover the truth simultaneously then go back to the marital house and act as if nothing had changed – except that every day things like kitchen knives or a salt shaker suddenly seem threatening.
Then when the Smith hits the fan, we get some of the most exciting action scenes I’ve seen all year. Especially enjoyable is how the shotgun blasts and knife-throwing is intercut with typical couple arguments (“You’re overreacting!”, “You constantly underestimate me.”, etc.). It’s pretty clever too how the Smiths’ suburban cover blows over into the crazy mayhem of their secret lives. I think the kick ass highway chase is the first one I’ve seen involving a minivan (!), and it’s amusing how the big climactic shoot-out is set in a Home Depot-style superstore.
On top of being a relationship comedy and an action thriller, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” is about movie stars being movie stars, not unlike Ocean’s Eleven or Charlie’s Angels. The only thing hotter than Jolie’s lips is the sensual voice that comes out of it, and I love Pitt’s mannerisms, body language and exclamations (“Ahw!”). The PG-13 rating doesn’t allow the two to have much sexual chemistry, but there’s plenty of sparks between them when they fight it out. Pitt kicking the shit out of a woman shouldn’t get laughs but it does – and it’s not so bad when you take into consideration that Jolie more than puts in her share of blows. Then there’s the hilarious Vince Vaughn, who just about steals the flick as a co-worker of Pitt who still lives with his mother!
The plot might be nonsense, but it moves and it grooves. On a hot summer day in an air-conditioned multiplex, I don’t ask for much more. Movie stars trade quips, stuff blows up, audiences go home happy.