|Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Angela Bassett, Adam Brody, Vince Vaughn, William Fichtner
Director: Doug Liman
“Mr. & Mrs. Smith” has the unpleasant distinction of being one of those movies where the general public’s interest in the on-set drama far exceeded their interest in the movie, to the point where the movie is no longer a movie but a freak show. Everyone’s heard the stories on the chemistry between lead actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (one group of very clever guys even wrote a song about it), but the real bad news hit when stories surfaced that Jolie and director Doug Liman fought like cobra and mongoose. Suddenly, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” wasn’t just the movie that killed Brad & Jennifer. It was the movie that killed Brad, Angelina and Liman.
Well, let’s not get hysterical here. Sure, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” is not perfect, and is probably Liman’s worst movie. But Liman’s worst movie (“Swingers,” “Go,” “The Bourne Identity,” this) is still better than Brett Ratner’s best movie, and while the ending gets way too noisy, the movie is quite enjoyable.
Pitt and Jolie star as John and Jane Smith, a typical suburban couple stuck in a loveless marriage, each completely unaware that the other is a world-class assassin. Problems arise when they show up on the same job, and each gets “made” by the other in the process. With their deepest secrets out, they must face up to the truth about their lives, their alleged sham of a marriage, and whether they have any chance of surviving the night.
For a movie that’s tailor made to be big and loud, the most entertaining moments are the quiet ones. The scenes with the marriage counselor are amusing in their awkwardness (Therapist: “How often do you have sex?” Jane: “I don’t understand the question.”), and the conversation they have at dinner after the botched job is priceless. Vince Vaughn is wisely used sparingly as John Smith’s co-worker, a hit man who lives with his mother. Adam Brody, however, seemed woefully miscast as Benjamin, the mark on the botched job.
Where the movie loses its way is when everything gets blow’d up. Liman is perfectly capable of handling an action sequence – the climax to “Bourne Identity” was stunning in its low-tech simplicity – but the two big sequences in “Smith” look like the work of a guy who’s seen “Panic Room” too many times, overusing the “stealth camera” technique. (There’s another, less subtle reference to David Fincher in the movie as well.) The car chase, in particular, is a letdown, especially in comparison to the one Liman staged in “Bourne Identity.” Also, for as much shattered glass as there is in this movie, both John and Jane should have been cut to ribbons by the 90-minute mark.
Pitt and Jolie should feel lucky that “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” turned out as well as it did. This had the makings of being another “Proof of Life,” which ruined not only Meg Ryan’s marriage, but her career as well. As it is, it’s not as bad or as good as it could have been, which makes the movie feel like a hit, given the circumstances.
The two-disc collector’s edition of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” promises fans an unrated version of the film, but after watching it over again, I couldn’t find a single thing different from the theatrical cut. You might see a little nipple on Angelina during a scene where she wears a see-thru top, but that’s about it. Also, two of the three audio commentaries from the single-disc release are now missing, but the most important one (with director Doug Liman) is still there. The rest of the special features include an excellent collection of deleted/extended scenes - including two alternate endings - a gag reel, a making-of documentary (“Domestic Violence”) and “Doug’s Film School,” a series of mini-featurettes that dive into the more technical aspects of the film.