Amid the destruction and mayhem of the assassination profession, a married couple tries to work out their differences. So, is this film about relationships, killers, both, or none of the above?
John Smith (Brad Pitt) is having some issues concerning his wife of five (or six) years, Jane (Angelina Jolie). For reasons neither can explain, the fire that kindled their romance has been replaced by the secrets they keep from one another. When one particular assignment reveals that they are actually both assassins working covertly for competing government agencies, “hurting the ones you love” takes on a whole new meaning.
With a film starring beautiful players and featuring guns and violence, it should have had “sure-fire summer blockbuster hit” written all over it. The idea is sound, but the execution leaves a uninteresting middle act, restrained chemistry, and the lack of any real conclusion. While it becomes obvious a short way through the film that the underling story is really a commentary on the institution of marriage, sacrificing the setting and plausibility undermines what could have been a much more satisfying film for all interested audiences.
The easiest film to compare this to is James Cameron’s True Lies, which mostly got it right. With a spy husband (Arnold Schwarzenegger) pretending to go off to work and a dated stay-at-home mom (Jamie Lee Curtis) yearning to do things she doesn’t know her husband actually does, the conflict and resolution works. Mr. & Mrs. Smith complicates the spy angle one step further with a War of the Roses subplot but takes so long finally getting to what we already know is going to happen. Worse yet, in the end we’re still left not knowing how the spy setting will work out (not to mention the wasted talents of Vince Vaughn in a throwaway role).
Middle act and conclusion aside, the film does touch upon plenty of moments between the leads, but unlike the love/hate tension of The Mexican between Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt, the Pitt/Jolie of Smith seems restrained to the point of either covering for something or a true lack of chemistry. Yes, it’s funny when they bicker, but is it believable when they’re not being funny? My answer is no, and since the assassin’s guild setting is abandoned late in the film in favor of a relationship conclusion, the end product misses the better opportunity.
Whereas Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee tango the night away during a covert operation knowing that love conquers all and that our heroes will kick anyone’s tail who thinks otherwise, Mr. & Mrs. Smith are left with a body count, uncertainty, and a conclusion that promises that we’ll have to endure a sequel whenever someone finally decides how the originally movie actually ended.
(a two skull recommendation out of four)