Recently it has become very difficult to go see a movie without bringing in a prefabricated bias. The scandals, the scoops, the marketing campaigns trying to capitalize on the fame of leads are becoming confusing (let alone tiresome). Although I can avoid the gossip pages, or ignore the constant attentions big stars get these days, I could not help being influenced by the Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie romance that came roaring into the media this past spring. Since I wanted to see the movie regardless of their relationship, and went into the theater anyway. I know I was ready to hate the flick, but no matter how hard I tried – I did not succeed. The movie is fun, smart, and is very sexy – almost despite all the mindless marketing that preceded it. Good for the actors, and the creative team – they managed to put together a great film and to hell with gossip rags. Kudos!
The movie reminded me of True Lies in many respects – a husband and wife lead secretive lives – and eventually are forced to open up and work together in a “bigger lie” from everyone else. That dynamic immediately creates “love-hate” possibilities, that were well done in True Lies, and are taken even further in this movie. The old “I loved you until I found out who you really are” step in a relationship is played straight, and with an unusual further development. It takes guts to push a good, reliable idea even further, and avoid the cliche.
The story – if you haven’t seen a single trailer – a simple. Mr. and Mrs. Smith live a happy suburban life. Both go to work, both come back late, both are content to go quietly to bed. In reality their work is much more exciting – they are both contract killers, and to make things complicated, they work for competing agencies. A few minutes into the film they both get the same target – and obviously fail to assassinate that target. And since they’re both committed professionals, they decide to find out who was the “other party” that screwed up the assassination. Clearly enough they find out who they are, and are ordered to “eliminate the competition”. Simple, straight and uncomplicated – many action movies worked well with a simple premise like that.
What makes “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” different is that besides the action, they bring in chemistry and married life situation into the movie. They are only killers by day. At night they need a home, a meal, a comfy bed. And, if one of them kills another, there’s a chance the meal will be cold and the bed – uninviting. Plus, you gotta deal with the deception. It’s not easy to come to terms with a huge lie that was right next to you – in the bathroom, on the other side of the kitchen island, next to you in bed. The movie makes many typical situations more intimate, putting them in perspective of a husband and wife. It’s going to sound funny, but the movie feels more humanized, and easier to identify when these characters deal with their family life before sorting out their jobs.
And if you’re not interested in seeing Brad and Angelina talk things out – BTW you’re missing a lot – their scenes with the therapist are some of the funniest in the movie, you can stay for the action. They both know how to kick, run and blow things up. They are professionals, after all. Their first assassinations, and eventual showdowns with each other are spectacular sequences – even their fist-fighting scene that could have been so exploited (a man beating on a woman), works well because of their athletic abilities and the film’s intention to show two equals. These two kick ass, and it’s a pleasure to observe.
The movie mainly deals with these two (everyone else is secondary), but there is a mandatory “buddy” character, played by Vince Vaugn, who is a great comic relief. Angeline has some “girl” friends from her universe, but they don’t really register. Brad’s buddy Vince is also killer-for-hire whose detachment is hilarious. The “kill it if it moves towards you” attitude is great considering Brad is having second thoughts about his targets. The balance between the two is perfect. I would like to see the same thing in Angelina’s world, but it was lacking.
Other than that, the action scenes, the assignments, the revelations and their chemistry make the film a great entertainment, not dumb, not loud. Just an action movie with a family drama in the background. Or a family drama with some chases in the back. No tired cliches or cop-outs. Enjoy it.