‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’: A vow to a kill
It is not a remake, a sequel or an animated cartoon. It doesn’t involve a superhero of any kind. (At least not the comic book kind.) For these tiny blessings be grateful, for in “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” we have an adult action film of the kind that used to define our summer moviegoing objective: Dumb diversion.
Backed by an incredible advertising effort matched only by Darthmania, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” has gotten equally effective tabloid coverage thanks to the gossip surrounding the behind-the-scenes fandango of its stars, the post-Jen Brad Pitt and the between-husbands Angelina Jolie.
Director Doug Liman (“Swingers,” “The Bourne Identity”) is talented enough to know how not to let the material or his technical abilities outshine his actors. Even with guns a-blazin’ and plenty of sonic mayhem his film is really about marital combat.
Pitt and Jolie play a couple married for five or six years (even they can’t agree), each of whom unknowingly works as a contract assassin for rival, clandestine organizations. That they can keep their ample killing abilities as well as their substantial personal arsenals hidden from each other stretches credibility, but this film is not grounded in reality but video game issue violence. In fact it may go down as a film with the highest body count with the lowest ratio of spilled blood.
The film takes some unpredictable turns that thankfully aren’t foreshadowed in the previews, and Vince Vaughn is the source of many funny one-liners. There are the requisite shootouts and car chases, which feature refreshingly few slow motion and shaky handheld camera shots. There is also a certain, well, manic chemistry, between the two stars, but (to paraphrase Chris Rock) “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” clearly reaffirms who here is the actor and who is the celebrity. Pitt is given most of the moments that require subtle humor and nuance while Jolie is given sexy outfits. Her ubiquitous “come hither” look remains her lone onscreen expression.
It’s time to call out Ms. Jolie, for “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” is likable despite her numerous shortcomings as an actress. Reflecting on her career, ponder this: Are any of her films good, or at least better because she starred in them? Stop me when I name one: “Taking Lives,” “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” “Life or Something Like It,” or either of the dreadful “Lara Croft” films?
And can you name an actress involved in the theatrical nadir of more respected actors, including the likes of Colin Farrell, (“Alexander”) Antonio Banderas (“Original Sin”) Denzel Washington (“The Bone Collector”) and Clive Owen (“Beyond Borders”)? She’s the black cat on Friday the 13th of Hollywood.
So, good for Brad Pitt for taking on this role. He consistently seeks challenges in his career, and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” proves that some relationships are worth fighting for, and there can be some mindless fun in watching handsome people work out their problems. Just don’t try this at home.