Mr. & Mrs. Smith Review

by Stephen Bourne (ap291 AT FreeNet DOT Carleton DOT CA)
June 20th, 2005

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)
Reviewed by Stephen Bourne, Ottawa, Canada.

The first time they'd met, back in the ramshackle bar of an army raided Bogota hotel six years ago, secret hit man for hire John Smith (Brad Pitt) quietly fell in love with Jane (Angelina Jolie). He remembers. She was like Christmas morning. Pure. The sultry Colombian early sunlight washing over her in that weary bed. Her perfect body, her luxurious raven hair. Her lips full of kisses that still crackled across John's muscular frame, as he returned to their dilapidated suite with a meagre breakfast and his heart on a tray. Soon to be followed by a golden wedding ring, and a suburban New York Colonial home together in blissful matrimony. Sweet memories of a time before they began to drift apart. Now, they were embittered ash. "I guess in the end," he grits his teeth at her over the phone, speeding after her through brooding Manhattan streets under a grim pale moon, "you start thinking about the beginning." That was after the fourth time she'd tried to kill her increasingly disinterested husband John. Although, the first time doesn't really count, since Jane - also a highly trained, clandestine contract assassin living a double life - didn't know that John was the one interfering with her assignment to mercilessly terminate Ben Diaz (Adam Brody; 'Never Land' (2000)), a heavily guarded Federal witness en route from the Mexican border. John was also hired to kill Diaz. That was the day his life was turned upside-down. The day he realized that the hitter who left him for dead in that remote patch of desert was his emotionally distant wife Jane. Sitting across from her over a home cooked dinner would never be the same. Particularly after the second time she'd tried to kill him. The third time, trapped seventy floors above an unsuspecting construction crew, John was beginning to realize the seriousness of this predicament. He really was a marked man after-all. Was it something he'd said? Did he forget her birthday? Leave the toothpaste tube uncapped once too often? Chasing Jane home from the Downtown restaurant's blasted out husk in a stolen car on that chilled night, John heard her brutally cold answer on the phone. Reconciliation was out of the question, except at his funeral. One of them was going to die before this was over. He needed guns. Flowers won't do it. Yeah, lots of guns...

Remember Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner relentlessly trashing their house and each other as venomous married enemies in 'The War of the Roses' (1989)? Well, imagine actor Sean Connery's James Bond and either Honour Blackman's Pussy Galore from 'Goldfinger' (1964) or Grace Jones' May Day from 'A View to a Kill' (1985) in that setting, and you've pretty well got the gist of this sporadically entertaining and fairly plodding, hundred and twenty-minute action/comedy from director Doug Liman ('Swingers' (1996), 'The Bourne Identity' (2002)). Sure, there are brief moments when this spuriously hyped disappointment feels as though it might become a rollicking fun sequel-in-spirit to the comparably superior 'True Lies' (1994), but so much of writer Simon Kinberg's ('xXx: State of the Union' (2005)) script plays out as vapid pretense attempting to justify a kind of realized metaphor for marital dysfunction gone bullet riddled and pyrotechnic that the story and any tangible character development seems lost or lazily concocted minutes before the camera rolls. It's not a spy movie, because there's no intrigue or real sense of over-all, high velocity pacing. The Smiths just so-happen to be spies, so that they can more readily get their hands on an arsenal of weaponry and ultra cool gadgets. It's not even a wry parody of the oftentimes emotional tailspin towards a charred crater of divorce, since this couple merely plays at being bored with their marriage - which they also pretend at. Even if Pitt's Smith had taken a slightly different tact, where he was actually overjoyed at the prospect of he and his wife finally having something in common, 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' would have been a much more satisfying, hilariously oddball screening. As it stands, sitting through this flick is like brushing your teeth with shaving cream. It has the same minty fresh colour and consistency as the real McCoy, but, well, it just tastes wrong. What you're predominantly left with is paying witness to the undeniably charismatic screen presence of Brad Pitt ('Twelve Monkeys' (1995), 'Troy' (2004)) and Angelina Jolie ('Hackers' (1995), 'Taking Lives' (2004)), as they play with noisy toys and toy with exasperating double meanings while firing knowing winks at cinematographer Bojan Bazelli's fairly unimaginative lens throughout. Pitt's rather fawning Q&A with Ashton Kutcher transcribed in a recent issue of Interview magazine was a more captivating piece of cinephile porn that mercifully ate up far less time and money than this surprisingly wasteful star vehicle - even if, reportedly, Liman and film editor Michael Tronick hadn't awkwardly left a steamy love scene on the cutting room floor in order to secure this offering's teen-friendly PG-13 rating come opening day. Yawn. There was this small, critically acclaimed and Oscar-winning little film released a few years ago that you might have heard of called 'Prizzi's Honor' (1985), a deliciously dark comedy starring Turner and Jack Nicholson, directed by John Huston, that wryly dealt with the same theme of two killers who are lovers contracted to assassinate each other. That was an extremely enjoyable movie from beginning to closing credits. This isn't, except during the last half hour - around the same time that you notice you've fallen asleep from the waist down, as well as from the neck up - when the Smiths quit acting like trigger happy finger puppets and actually begin talking to each other in sentences longer than five or six words. I suspect that even if you're a huge fan of "Bengelina" in whole or in part, you're still probably better off renting this bloated snooze fest and reaping the benefits of having a fast forward button handy.


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