Review: Mr & Mrs Smith

Can any film hope to live up to the hype that surrounds Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and their “relationship?” The answer is no. Look at the disasters spawned by tabloid fodder – Affleck and Lopez in Gigli, Cruise and Cruz in Vanilla Sky, Cruise and Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut, Ryan and Crowe in Proof of Life. (I would add Madonna and Guy Richie for Swept Away, Madonna and Warren Beatty for Dick Tracy, or Madonna and Sean Penn for Shanghai Surprise, but I think they had more to do with Madonna’s painfully incompetent acting than her relationships with her co-stars/directors).

This isn’t even a new phenomenon. There are disasters starring couples like Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton, Kim Basinger & Alec Baldwin, Corey Feldman & Corey Haim… To be honest, I can’t wait until Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore decide to join forces and create something so offensively disastrous, it completely rehabilitates our sensibilities, to the point where we think Mariah Carey in Glitter is high art.

“Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” however, is not a bad film. It certainly doesn’t reach the heights of “Dead Man Walking” (Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins) or “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton), but it is a disposable piece of popcorn cinema.

Brad and Ange are hired killers, who meet while on the job in some dodgy South American nation. They spend the next five or six years in total oblivion of each other’s true nature. She thinks he works in construction, he thinks she works in IT. That is where the hyper-reality starts: as if someone that looks like Angelina Jolie would ever stoop to crawling around under desks fiddling with USB cables.

The movie goes on to become the kind of guns and explosions action romp that I always find incredibly satisfying. It is not so dissimilar to James Cameron’s True Lies, or a domestic James Bond. There is a worrying subtext about domestic violence, and the age-old notion that a good fight ends in good make-up sex. The most exciting part of the movie however is not the bang-bang of guns or bodies, it is Brad and Angelina themselves. They are both so beautiful and compelling on screen, you don’t really care much about what is going on around them.

As well as being drool-inducing divine specimens of humanity, Pitt and Jolie are both highly skilled performers, creating a fascinating couple, whose relationship is atrophying around the web of lies woven to keep the other safe from their dangerous careers. The passion has gone out of their marriage, and the thinly disguised growing contempt they have for each other is a palpable presence in the film. What is less evident is the passion itself. They are magnificent in a fight scene, but it is far more difficult to believe that they have any kind of desire for one another. Given how deliciously sexy they are, you would think that to be the easy part of making this movie…

Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a good fun night at the movies if you like either of these performers, or you like a bit of mindless action. The big fight scenes take place in hilariously domestic settings; a shootout in a suburban home, a military insurgence into a homewares store, and a car chase in a Tarago. It’s fun if you like that kind of thing, but don’t go for the love story. You’ll be let down.

The FAB-O-METER swung both ways for Mr. & Mrs. Smith. 3.7/5