With the very mixed reviews I had seen for "Mr and Mrs Smith" I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, except for some sort of mindless summer action movie that may or may not be any good. That's not much to go on, but the director is good (Doug Liman, "The Bourne Identity") and the premise was interesting.
The premise of this movie has Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as John and Jane Smith in a marriage of five or six years and whatever passion there once was has long since disappeared. They are bored with each other and with their relationship. But each harbors a secret: Mr. and Mrs. Smith are assassins working for competing firms and neither knows this secret of the other. The trailers suggest that they will be given a contract to take out the other and it is only in the middle of the mission that they realize who they are hired to kill. That isn't exactly how things play out. Rather than the two Smiths being given missions to take out the other, the Smiths are each set to target someone I’ll call “The Hostage”. When attempting to eliminate “The Hostage” Jane Smith sees that there is somebody else around and with a weapon. She shoots, he shoots back. It was Mr. Smith, but at the time this isn’t known. Each only knows that there was a competing player on the scene and only later learns that it is the spouse that was the other player. This is the big set up for the Smiths to finally talk about their marriage and deal with all that was simmering under the surface…all the while trying to kill each other and stay alive themselves.
What results is a surprisingly entertaining movie. There is plenty of action, at which Doug Liman excels, and it is easy to see that the movie started out with a wide comedic tone. Pitt and Jolie are both believable (as far as it goes) in their roles and their chemistry is very real. I expected the action from Liman and from the film trailer, but this was a very funny movie as well. It isn’t played as a broad comedy in which we might find a younger Adam Sandler, but rather as very scene appropriate humor but it was enough that the audience was laughing. I certainly was, as was my wife.
“Mr. and Mrs. Smith” is not some grand examination of marriage as has been suggested from time to time, but it is far better than most “Summer Action Movies” in which category I would place movies like “The Fast and the Furious” and “XXX”. There is plenty of action and humor, but it is very well done and the fairly empty plot seems to be deeper than it is just because of the chemistry of Pitt and Jolie. That’s really what sells this movie is how well Pitt and Jolie play off each other. That, and the fact that we believe that Angelina Jolie really could kick some serious butt.
By no means is this a perfect movie, but Liman mixes the action, humor, and the marriage on the rocks portions of the movie with great skill. While the plot is fairly weak and excuse for the actors to play, it works just well enough to give the summer a fun action movie and one which is better than most.