J.D. Lafrance
Mr. and Mrs. Smith: Unrated DVD Review

Mr. and Mrs. Smith: Unrated

June 6, 2006

Director: Doug Liman,
Starring: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Adam Brody, Kerry Washington, Vince Vaughn, Stephanie March, Jennifer Morrison, Keith David, Chris Weitz, Rachael Huntley, Michelle Monaghan,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005) is one of those critic-proof movies. It’s a big, loud action movie starring two of the biggest movie stars on the planet – Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Both, incidentally, were in need of a box office hit as Pitt was coming off the expensive flop Troy (2004) and Jolie with Taking Lives (2004). The only thing that might have saved this film from being your typical, brainless action spectacle is the presence of director Doug Liman, the potential wildcard on this particular project. He had directed such diverse films like Swingers (1996), Go (1999) and The Bourne Identity (2002) and was known for forging his own distinctive style.

John (Pitt) and Jane (Jolie) Smith are the perfect looking suburban couple except that all the magic has gone out of their marriage. It’s become routine and they are seeing a marriage counselor because after five years they can’t stand the sight of each other anymore. Unbeknownst to each other, they are both professional assassins. Liman coyly prolongs this revelation until 23 minutes into the movie. He does drop cute little hints here and there and even misdirects us into thinking that they cheating on each other.

A problem arises when they are assigned to eliminate the same target: Benjamin Danz (Brody). Naturally, they cross paths and cancel each other out without hitting their target and without identifying one another. Being the consummate professionals that they are, John and Jane want to take out the person who messed up their respective hits until they find out that they are in fact rivals and life gets a hell of a lot more complicated for the two of them.

The film starts off like True Lies (1994) and then mutates into a riff on Prizzi’s Honor (1985) with just a dash of The War of the Roses (1989) albeit with automatic weapons and grenades. On the plus side, Vince Vaughn is a scene stealer as Pitt’s motormouth best friend and co-worker. He gives the film a much needed comedic jolt with his patented idiot bravado shtick that is very funny, most notably when he tries to cheer John up after he finds out who Jane really is.

Watching Mr. and Mrs. Smith, one can’t help but think of the whole Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie-Jennifer Aniston love triangle debacle that reportedly went down after this film was made. Pitt and Jolie, admittedly, do have good chemistry together but, again, this is clouded by their personal lives that were splashed all over the tabloids. With that kind of media saturation and seeing their mugs on the cover of every tabloid rag at the check-out register of your local grocery store how could it not?

After the visceral, hand-held camerawork he utilized in The Bourne Identity, Liman shows off his versatility with a slick, fluid style befitting this kind of slick, big budget action film. Surprisingly, Mr. and Mrs. Smith doesn’t completely suck. The action sequences are big and noisy and very well-orchestrated. Although, the unrated moniker adorning this new set is a bit misleading. The additional violence is not overtly bloody and the “steamy” sex scenes aren’t explicit at all. Basically, this is just another attempt to milk the fan bases of Pitt and Jolie which are considerable.

Special Features:

The first disc features an audio commentary by director Doug Liman. He admits that this is the director’s cut and candidly reveals that the film was not previewed for critics because of the whole Brad and Angelina thing. He points out what bits are new to this cut and admits that this was the first film he did that was not rooted in reality. He had to learn how to let go and make a big, splashy action film. Liman argues that the theatrical version plays it safe to a certain degree because the studio was worried that summer audiences would have short attention spans. He does touch upon the little compromises he made and his own idiosyncratic style in this enjoyable track.

The second disc contains the rest of the extras, starting off with “Confidential Files,” 11 deleted scenes and two alternate endings. This is a collection of little bits of business that were rightly trimmed from the final cut. One of the alternate endings coyly suggests a Smith offspring that, even as a child, has the killer instinct of its parents. Also included is a gag reel with Pitt and Jolie repeatedly blowing their lines due to laughing fits.

“Domestic Violence: Shooting Mr. and Mrs. Smith” takes a look at the making of this movie. The screenwriter originally pitched it as 50% Nora Ephron movie, 50% John Woo movie. Every studio passed on it. This featurette shows how a simple scene of John picking up the newspaper is covered by multiple cameras and done over several takes. Everyone gushes about everyone in this love fest with producer Akiva Goldsman describing Liman as “eccentric,” comparing him to one of the villains in the 1960s Batman T.V. show (?!).

“Doug’s Film School” features a collection of scenes and how they were put together. The studio thought that the footage Liman was shooting might be too dramatic and wanted a narrator to frame a few scenes but he ended up showing them the film without these bits and they liked it anyway which gives an example of how money was wasted on this production. Originally, there were villains pitted against John and Jane. They were first played by Jacqueline Bisset and Terrence Stamp and we get to see their cut footage. Then, they were recast with Keith David and Angela Bassett taking over and we see their footage. Some featurettes in this section dissect certain scenes, breaking them down in terms of storyboards, animatics and script excerpts.

Finally, there are galleries that include behind-the-scenes photos taken by Liman and producer Lucas Foster.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 71%



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