Mr. & Mrs. Smith review by Mike Long

Like most movie fans, I see many movies, and (hopefully) enjoy many of them. If the film is well made, I will really get into it and (once again, hopefully) have the appropriate emotional reaction. And while I can lose myself in the films, I rarely relate to them. Sure, I recognize the situations in the film and many characters are familiar, but it's rare that a movie truly speaks to me, especially an action film. But, watching parts of Mr. & Mrs. Smith was like having a marry held up to my life. The movie may have some great gunfights, but its tales of marital tension are very true.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie star in Mr. & Mrs. Smith as Jane and John Smith. As the film opens, we learn about how this couple met during a tumultuous situation in Colombia and fell in love. But, now, six years later, they are clearly bored in their relationship. John works in construction, while Jane works in computers. They are both very successful and have many nice possessions, but there is no passion between them. This is probably due to the fact that both are leading secret lives -- Jane and John are both actually high-paid assassins. When they (unbeknownst to each other) clash on a job, John begins to suspect that Jane is hiding something. Once the truth is revealed, the couple is played against one another, and carnage ensues as the best in the business go toe-to-toe. At this point the film raises the question; Is the urge to kill your spouse really that unusual?

If you are looking for a movie which is a bargain, then Mr. & Mrs. Smith is the film for you, as you get two movies in one. On the surface, the movie is an action film. Director Doug Liman brings his experience from making The Bourne Identity to Mr. & Mrs. Smith and creates some dazzling action scenes. While the overly-long shootout during the film's finale is most likely supposed to be the set-piece of the movie, I found the freeway car chase scene to be much more creative and exciting. Liman also gives the movie a very slick look which is reminiscent of many other spy thrillers.

But, beneath this surface is the real Mr. & Mrs. Smith, which is a romantic comedy and a hilariously raw examination of marriage. While I certainly enjoyed the action scenes, it was the banter between Pitt and Jolie which really sold me on the film. Writer Simon Kinberg has created a near-genius scenario by pairing bickering spouses with assassins. The film's trailers made it resemble Danny DeVito's The War of the Roses, where a couple wanted to kill one another, but with Mr. & Mrs. Smith we get a couple who actually CAN kill each other, and the tension is amazing. When The Smith's covers are blown, they finally start being honest with one another and the results are riotous. This duo find themselves arguing even during their fight scenes and some of the things that they say are things that I've said in real life! In these scenes, Mr. & Mrs. Smith resembles Liman's earlier films Swingers and in the sense that it finds the realistic humor in relationships.

I must admit that I wasn't a fan of late 80s/early 90s Brad Pitt. I found his acting to be stiff and the way that women reacted to him convinced me that he was simply getting by on his looks. However, with Fight Club, it became clear that Pitt was wiling to spoof his own reputation and career. With Ocean's Eleven, Pitt's ability to laugh at himself made him even more endearing. With Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Pitt really lets go and portrays John Smith as a smooth killer who is actually very goofy and ultimately becomes quite terrified of his wife. Once again, this brings in a very realistic element of the modern marriage where the man isn't always the king of his castle. While Jolie never goes as far as Pitt (partly because of her character's control issues, but I'm sure that her own personality figured into this), she is funny as well, and becomes the straight-man to Pitt high-strung high-jinx. Vince Vaughn appears in the film as John's partner/confidant and he steals every scene in which he appears.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith gets a rating which I give to very, very few films -- I wanted to see more of it. Although the movie has a 2-hour running time, I got the feeling that a lot was cut out concerning the seemingly-normal relationship between John and Jane and how they functioned within their suburban environment. As it stands, Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a wonderfully entertaining film which offers action, adventure, laughs, and a big dose of the truth.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith finds marital bliss on DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film is being released to DVD in two separate editions, one widescreen and the other full-frame. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only on very fine sheen of grain. The image is somewhat dark at times though. The colors, when they appear, look good, although Liman has chosen to give the film a very muted and monochromatic look. I didn't notice any major problems with artifacting or edge-enhancement. The DVD carries both a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a DTS 5.1 audio track. These tracks provide clear dialogue with no distortion. Both tracks sound fantastic, as the audio makes create use of stereo separation, surround sound, and bass effects. The explosions in the film rattled the walls, and the gunfights had bullets whizzing through the front and rear speakers. Both tracks are excellent, but the DTS track provided somewhat better clarity.

The DVD contains an odd lot of extra features. The DVD features three audio commentaries. The first features director Doug Liman and screenwriter Simon Kinberg. This is a good chat, as the two discuss the making of the film and how things changed from the script to the screen. The second commentary has producers Akiva Goldsman and Lucas Foster. This is an interesting talk as well, as the pair talk about what it took to get the film made and how closely they worked with Liman and Kinberg. Two things are notable about these two commentaries; 1) they constantly discuss how the film's "low" budget kept the filmmakers from making the film as it was written and how they had to fight to get certain things done; 2) despite rumors of tension on the set between Jolie and Liman, there is no talk of that here and the speakers make it seem as if everyone got along just fine. The third commentary has editor Michael Tronick, production designer Jeff Mann (who were recorded together) and visual effects supervisor Kevin Elan (whose comments are edited in). This commentary brings forth some interesting info about the look of the film, but it's a bit too technical when compared to the first two talks. The DVD contains 3 "Deleted Scenes" which total 17 minutes, most of which is taken up by a deleted gunfight sequence. There is some addition Vince Vaughn footage here which is quite funny. "Making a Scene" is an 8-minute segment which focuses on the car-fight scene which occurs after John discovers Jane's true identity, mixed in with some standard "making of" fare. Finally, we have the "Theatrical Teaser" and the "Theatrical Trailer".

8 out of 10 Jackasses

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