“Mr. and Mrs. Smith” is an action comedy, but director Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity”) directs with a straight face (and the occasional wink and a nod), and writer Simon Kinberg’s script is so nonchalant and hip that you are simply compelled to toss aside the film’s many gaping plotholes. “Smith” is an immensely enjoyable movie, and to get too caught up in the glitches in Kinberg’s script (of which there are many) would be a disservice to yourself. (In a bit of trivia, Kinberg apparently wrote the script while in film school; not a surprise, since I actually wrote a couple of versions of this story myself, and no doubt a lot of other impressionable 20-somethings who were also in film school.)
“Mr. and Mrs. Smith” is about two hired killers who meet one hot summer day in Bolivia 5 or 6 years ago (he says 5, she says 6), got married, and now lives a dull suburban life. Everytime they part, he thinks she’s going to Wall Street, and she thinks he’s going to his construction site, but they’re actually going on assassinations. John Smith (Brad Pitt, “Troy”) has a trusty sidekick played by Vince Vaughn (who once again proves that he’s brilliant when given limited screentime), and Jane Smith (Angelina Jolie, “Original Sin”) has a whole team of female agents at her beck and call. If she’s super high-tech, he’s almost working out of a trailer. When the two are assigned to hit the same target, their cover is exposed to each other, and soon it’s 40 minutes of marital warfare, covert and overt.
Working from a script that has as much ability to be as charming and sly as it is outrageously over-the-top stupid, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” is pure popcorn fun, the kind that should come with the warning, “Be prepare to up your suspension of disbelief”. The combined starring power of two movie stars who redefines the phrase “ungodly beautiful” doesn’t hurt a bit, especially since Pitt and Jolie’s chemistry is outstanding. In a movie full of explosions and billions of spent bullet casing, it’s the sexual heat between the two leads as they crash against each other while fully clothed that are the highlights. There should be laws against being so damn physically perfect.
Coming off “The Bourne Identity”, Doug Liman acquits himself quite well. The sequence where John and Jane discover each other’s true identities, only to return home for dinner, is brilliantly choreographed. The scene feels like a ballet, as the two feels each other out, all the while arming themselves with whatever is at hand for the inevitable battle to come — unsure of what they should do, but realizing what they must do. Even so, Liman still misses some excellent opportunities. Never once do we see the Smiths sitting at dinner in the same master shot — he on one side of the table, she on the other. A simple establishing would have elicited the perfect reaction from the audience.
But it’s Kinberg’s script that provides the foundation for “Smith”. There’s a great running gag where John discovers that Jane is not as soft (re: feminine) as he thought, and Jane discovers that John is not as macho as she thought. (He majored in Art History; she was never in the Peace Corp. He likes crappy power ballads on the radio; she never cooked a single meal throughout their marriage.) And although the film has some large problems (for one, the film never bothers to clarify with any real satisfaction who the Smiths separately works for), it’s a good idea to just go with it. To do otherwise would deprive yourself of grinning when the bickering married assassins compare bodycount, and her number comes up higher because she sometimes “does them two at a time”.
With a fantastic set-up and a middle too busy with blowing up everything in sight to be boring, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” does eventually hit a major wall. Remember that scene in the movie trailer when someone shouts, “It’s the Smiths!” Well, it’s not in the movie. The Smiths never take the fight to their employer, and the film ends with a lengthy shootout inside a closed department store. And remember that other great scene in the trailer where John rides a tricycle while blasting away with a machine gun? Also not in the final movie. Instead of a proper ending, we get an overlong gunfight involving the Smiths and a horde of faceless commandos. We don’t even know if these commandos are bad guys or good guys. That’s how poorly the film establishes its villain.
Nevertheless, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” is great fun for much of its running time. It stumbles mightily toward the end, but everything before that will get your engines revving. The chemistry between stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie turns the film’s action up a notch, and for a PG-13 film, “Smith” slips in plenty of sexual innuendos and double entendres. Beyond the endless scenes of stuff blowing up real good, there are some hilarious gags and one-liners sprinkled throughout. The freeway chase, where John and Jane reveals truths about themselves to each other, all the while men in cars are chasing and shooting at them, is simply brilliant stuff.
Doug Liman (director) / Simon Kinberg (screenplay)
CAST: Brad Pitt …. John Smith
Angelina Jolie …. Jane Smith
Vince Vaughn …. Eddie
Adam Brody …. Benjamin Danz
Kerry Washington …. Jasmine