Mr. and Mrs. Smith
February 8, 2006
You can see why the tabloids had a field day over the “alleged” romance between Pitt and Jolie. Their chemistry in Mr. and Mrs. Smith is nothing short of electric. It’s sad then that the focus was on their private lives rather than the film itself, as it has much more going for it than you might at first think. It’s a fluffy summer action comedy right? Well not really. It’s about marriage – it just happens to have some big explosions in the background.
The premise is that, like Prizzi’s Honor, two rival assassins marry each other unwittingly and end up having to bump off their better half. Pitt invests Mr. Smith with a goofy charm that goes against the standard action hero staple (in one scene he bolts across his front lawn to kill his wife and is interrupted by a neighbour walking his dog) yet somehow remains convincing as an efficient spy. Jolie finally gets the balance right here, both sexy as hell and intelligent in a dramatic way (no face offs against giant CGI statues here) to keep us hooked. “Why do I get the girl gun?” she asks Pitt during a siege. If looks could kill.
In lesser hands this would be the silly actioner that we were expecting, but Doug Liman knows his way around intelligent spy movies. If The Bourne Identity was his way of making a serious action thriller, Mr. and Mrs. Smith is his chance to let loose with some cartoonish action scenes such as the title pair destroying their house in a huge fist fight when they discover their real jobs. The motorway chase is getting a bit tiresome after the epic scene in The Matrix Reloaded, copied in Bad Boys 2 and The Island, but Liman makes sure we are more interested in the bickering couple up front rather than how many bullets are fired ($250, 000 worth for the record). Vaughn does his slacker shtick for a few cheaps laughs and it’s a shame his character isn’t explored when offered $800,000 to kill off Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Him as the villain would have been a nice surprise.
What stops this being a truly memorable film is the last thirty minutes in which nothing is really resolved. It leaves the film open to a sequel but for the most part just leaves you with a hollow feeling in your stomach tantamount to finding The Usual Suspects DVD you bought cuts off the ending just before you find out who Keiser Soze is. The story is about relationships rather than master villains, yes, but that’s no excuse for ditching logic.
I’m sure we’re not alone wondering what happened to the missing scenes from the trailer in which Mr. Smith is in the mall on a kid’s bike firing a machine gun, or when Mrs. Smith is firing a mini-gun from the back of a moving vehicle, but alas, no sign of that here. There are three deleted scenes that basically show a longer ramble from Vaughn (“Thirteen-year-old girls are evil!”), a longer house investigation by Mrs. Smith’s crew and an even longer version of the mall shoot-out (very expensive and utterly pointless).
There’s also a ten minute “making a scene” featurette where Liman discusses the backyard chase and how it evolved from an expensive car chase to something more economic. This mindset is continued in his commentary with writer Simon Kinberg, where they discuss how pretty much every scene had to be scaled down for budgetary reasons but this made them more creative.
This isn’t a complete package (no stunt featurettes?) and not a perfect film but one that certainly deserves another appraisal. It’s funny, sexy, loud and quirky. Just don’t mention that ending.