Sunday, June 26, 2005

Movie Review: "Mr. and Mrs. Smith"

Starring Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Vince Vaughn, Kerry Washington, Adam Brody
Directed by Doug Liman

Pulling off a good comedy isn't easy. But pulling off a good black comedy is even tougher, as the film has to typically deal with dark themes and situations and somehow find humor in them. Having seen one bad recent example of one ("Duplex"), I was a bit skeptical of how well "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" would walk that thin line.
The answer is quite well – for the most part.
In case you've been living in a cave, you know that this is the film where paparazzi-faves Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie met. (Although they've maybe been losing a little steam lately with the very public romance of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes making headlines. Plus, Pitt and Jolie are very tight lipped on the nature of their relationship. And with their lips, that's really saying something. But I digress...)
The two highly photogenic stars portray John and Jane Smith, a couple of seemingly normal suburbanites who, as the movie starts, have agreed to enter marriage counseling. Both feel the spark has drifted out of their relationship, with neither realizing what the other truly does for a living. The two work as highly skilled assassins for different agencies – hers is a high-tech, slick-looking operation with a all-female staff; his has a decidedly low-rent feeling to it, complete with an elderly secretary and a high-strung partner (Vince Vaughn, offering good comic relief).
However, each is very good at what they do, concealing a cache of weapons right under one another's noses. But when both receive an assignment to take out the same target, complications ensue, with each feeling they've been compromised. This leads into a well-played dinner scene at home, with each still trying to maintain normal appearances, while suspecting the other might be trying to kill them. John notices a bottle of Drano near the martini Jane has just made for him, while Jane keeps her distance as John cuts the pot roast.
Soon enough, each discovers the truth, leading to high octane scenes of the couple trying to kill one another. Director Doug Liman throws subtlety out the window in these sequences, with gunfire and explosions reigning supreme. Matter of fact, the high-octane action sequences practically overwhelm the humor in the last third of the movie, as the Smiths find competing assassins on their tail. That said, Liman proves he has a good eye for action, as he demonstrated to good effect in "The Bourne Identity." A freeway chase involving a minivan (stolen from a neighbor by the Smiths, with John rationalizing that the neighbor has had his barbecue grill for months) and BMW's strikes a good balance of humor and action, complete with Air Supply on the soundtrack.
This is clearly one of those films that you don't want to break down and analyze for realism too closely. There are plenty of unlikely occurrences, including a drawn out conclusion that was evidently a late reshoot, after a previous ending was found unsatisfactory. But one area of the movie that doesn't feel false is the chemistry between Pitt and Jolie. It's palpable and it drives the movie through most of its weaknesses. They clearly were enjoying themselves while making the film, and that pretty successfully transfers to the audience.
Regardless of what their real relationship is, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" makes me want to see these two together on the screen again soon. But somehow I fear that Hollywood's creative minds may not be able to project anything for the two beyond the seemingly inevitable "Mr. and Mrs. Smith 2."
Grade: B
(Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, intense action, sexual content and brief strong language.)

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