Film Fare...with Mark Moorehead
Now playing: ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’
General Audiences: B+
Instruction manual for repairing a dysfunctional marriage between hired killers. Imagine a tongue-and-cheek action/violence film with very little bad language. Nothing objectionable for adults or mature teens.
Family Audiences: C
Not family fare. Story of a marriage on the rocks and lots of gunplay. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, intense action, sexual content and some strong language.
Consider what it would be like to be married to someone for six years only to discover everything you thought you knew about that person was a pack of lies.
If you’re a man, imagine discovering your spouse has a secret compartment under the crisper drawer of the refrigerator filled with guns, grenades and ammunition.
If you’re a woman, picture yourself finding a room beneath the tool shed filled with enough arms to equip a small army.
Now, think about what would happen if you and your spouse had a major falling out. This is the premise of Mr. & Mrs. Smith, played convincingly by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
When they first meet at a bar, sparks fly for the future Mr. and Mrs. Smith. It is love at first sight. The couple immediately heat up the joint, creating a steamy spectacle on the dance floor.
Six years of marriage later, we find the couple sitting in awkward silence across the dinner table from one another with nothing much to say other than “Please pass the salt.”
Because of their insanely busy schedules, they rarely see each other. As a result, they know next to nothing about one another, which leaves them with nothing in common and little to discuss. They simply occupy the same space.
Recognizing the warning signs of a marriage meltdown, the Smiths agree to see a therapist. This is where the film begins and ends—with the Smiths consulting a faceless counselor seeking answers to typical relationship questions..
Their candid remarks make the couple seem ordinary. In reality, however, they are no typical suburban couple. Mr. and Mrs. Smith are actually expertly trained, highly paid professional assassins who work for competing organizations—each blissfully unaware of the other’s true identity.
Clearly the Smiths have been set up by their respective organizations to assassinate each other, but that fact goes largely unnoticed by these pros. Rather than discuss it, the estranged couple returns to the family domicile where the tension is thick enough to cut with a knife—which is exactly what Jane uses. She grabs a knife and throws it at John, missing him by a hair.
A long, drawn-out fight commences with the Smiths using every weapon imaginable, including shoulder-launched rockets, Tasers, pump shotguns and an MP5 submachine gun to kill each other.
In this household, the expression “I could just kill you” should be taken literally.
During the crossfire, there’s a steady exchange of rapid-fire verbal jabs and rehashing of petty arguments. The quarrelsome couple remind viewers of Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in War of the Roses, Jack Nicholson and Angelica Huston in Prizzi’s Honor or Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows in The Honeymooners.
Although it’s a lousy way to communicate, John and Jane rekindle that missing spark and reconcile in a big way. Pitt and Jolie executed the “kiss-and-make-up” scene with so much intensity that it became fodder for the tabloids.
As a screen couple, Pitt and Jolie click, making this action flick a rollicking good time for all. There’s just enough tension and teasing to keep your mind off the gazillion bullets that miraculously miss our two leading stars. By design, Director Doug Liman doesn’t want you to feel there’s any real danger.
The gunplay is so excessive that the Smiths are inured to it. The continuous firing of weapons is a metaphor for the release of pent-up anger over discovering they have been living a lie in both their professional lives and personal relationship.
The most enjoyable aspect of Mr. & Mrs. Smith is listening to John and Jane admit a laundry list of deceptions that reveal their true personal history while fighting the bad guys that come knocking on their door.
For example, when Jane reveals to her husband that she’s had every dinner in the past six years catered, it leaves him in a state of shock and awe. He’s wondering how a guy as smart as he considers himself to be could have been fooled for so long.
Likewise, Jane is wondering how she was fooled into believing John was an ordinary businessman who preferred his mind-numbing job to playing house with her. Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.
The question is: Will Mr. And Mrs. Smith be able to trust each other in the sequel that will surely follow?