MR. AND MRS. SMITH directed by Doug Liman, with Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Vince Vaughn. 115 minutes. A 20th Century Fox release. Opens Friday (June 10). For venues and times, see Movies, page 115. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Who cares about Brangelina's offscreen love life? Watching Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie cock their guns and grins at each other, you think: this is why we go to the movies.
When the two square off in Mr. And Mrs. Smith, they sizzle. In formal wear or nuttin' at all, this is what glamour's all about.
Puny, boxer-nosed, small-ranged Jennifer Aniston wouldn't survive a second in the presence of these gods.
Surprisingly, the film's not so bad either.
Essentially an update of the old Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy formula pitting husband against wife in a work environment, it offers up the ridiculous premise that John (Pitt) and Jane (Jolie) Smith are, unbeknownst to the other, high-priced assassins working for rival agencies.
The efficient girls are pitted against the sloppy boys. Jolie's office is sleek and modern, while Pitt hangs with fellow hit man Vince Vaughn, who lives like a slob with his unseen mother.
After an operation during which the couple botch each other's assignment to take out a common target (The O.C.'s Adam Brody, at his whiniest), they're required to clean up the mess and kill the other.
What follows is a deliciously dark, sexy satire about secrets and lies in relationships. Wunderkind Simon Kinberg's script (he also wrote the upcoming X-Men movie) gets juicier as it goes along. Lines like "I missed you" and "Hi, stranger" take on darkly funny meanings.
We're talking double, triple entendres.
Tone is all-important in a film like this. How can we like characters who are trying to kill each other? A comparable film, The War Of The Roses, left a nasty aftertaste.
Part of the fun here is seeing how Kinberg and director Doug Liman solve the problem.
I have a feeling that the movie came alive in the editing and mixing process. Liman knows how to put together a film - his earlier flicks Go and The Bourne Identity triumphed mostly due to clever cutting.
In Bourne, most of CIA villains Chris Cooper's and Brian Cox's scenes ended up on the editing-room floor. But that's nothing compared to what was done to Angela Bassett, whose entire role in Mr. And Mrs. Smith was cut. I imagine she played Jolie's boss, the opposite number to Pitt's head honcho, Keith David, whose role here is minuscule.
John Powell's score goes a long way toward telling us how we're supposed to feel. A sex scene is underscored by a little tribal number that's totally fitting. Tango riffs throughout other sections cue us not to take these little dances with death too seriously.
What makes the film so original is its clever mixing of the action, romance and domestic film genres. One of the biggest laughs comes when the pair recount their past triumphs. Whether the number represent lovers or corpses is unclear: that's the point.
This could be the first Hollywood film that will appeal to the suburban minivan set - Pitt's character has a great line about a four-door model - and their kids.
Kinberg and Liman capture the frustration lurking beneath domestic bliss, and know that action, guns and cars are all about sex. There's something cathartic in watching the genres - and the gorgeous actors - rub up against each other so smoothly.