Bullets, firebombs and wedded bliss

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Bullets, firebombs and wedded bliss

The premise of “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” best known for having ended Brad Pitt’s marriage, is factory-ordered from a pitch meeting:Glamorous, married young killers-for-hire, each of whom is keeping their profession a secret from their spouse, learn the truth when they’re hired to kill each other. Once they’ve shot at each other for a while, they find that clearing the air has done wonders for their marriage.
This isn’t the freshest idea in the world ―there’s some “True Lies” and “Prizzi’s Honor” in there somewhere, and probably other precedents that I’m forgetting ― but Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt bring a certain amount of insouciance to it. Jolie in particular. She may be a nutbar who’s signed up for a whole lot of bad movies, but she’s got presence.
The main problem with “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” is that it’s an action film. It was directed by Doug Liman, who made something really fresh and exhilarating a few years back out of another flying-bullets movie, “The Bourne Identity.” In that film, when somebody put on some karate moves or crashed through a window, it looked like something you’d never seen before, even though it was something you’d seen several thousand times.
So one wouldn’t expect the action sequences in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” to be the problem. But all told, this movie must have 25 minutes of solid bullet-throwing, fireball-exploding, car-crashing and knife-throwing, and there’s barely a memorable image in the batch.
Maybe one: Jolie and Pitt are being pursued on a freeway by a black BMW with a single stripe by the right headlight. Suddenly two identical BMWs split off from behind it, and there are three. There’s a certain insectile menace there. That’s it ―the one interesting action visual. And it’s product placement.
More to the point, there’s too much of it, and I say that as a person who’s not at all averse to watching stuff get blown up. But it’s less fun when it’s all cliched. Had 20 minutes and two major shootouts been trimmed out of this, we all could have gone home sooner and happier.
What makes it a decent-enough time anyway is watching Jolie and Pitt wink and schmooze their way through it. There’s a funny framing sequence, opening and closing the movie with Jolie and Pitt talking directly to the camera in what proves to be marriage counseling. The first act, before they find out they’re in the same profession, is a fairly lively romantic sequence (they meet in Bogota, where each has presumably just killed somebody), followed by an amusing picture of a suburban marriage going stale.
The movie’s basically an old-school star vehicle ―a platform for watching movie stars be movie stars. It requires a certain sense of noblesse oblige. Pitt does that pretty well, though I think he mostly learned it from George Clooney. But the eye can’t be drawn away from Jolie, who’s a force of nature; she always seems to have about half again as much personality as any given role calls for. (That’s not to say most of her movies haven’t been horrible.) You can understand why Pitt is reluctant to let her go even after she’s tried to kill him four or five times.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Action / English
120 min.
Now playing

by David Moll
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