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RUNNING TIME: 120 min.
• Deleted scenes
NOTE: You’ll notice that the DVD review copy has been “branded”, and I’ve chosen not to crop it to preserve the picture integrity. But rather than create further syntax clutter I’ve opted not to provide the usual uproariously funny captions, so you’ll have to imagine your own appropriately witty captions for each.
Despite adherence to standard formulas, the success and failure of big-budget movies continues to defy logic. For example, in the summer of 2005 a pair of similarly expensive, noisy and idiotic films with inhumanly attractive casts arrived in theaters, but while one writhed at the box office like a gutshot henchman, the other came damn close to generating $200 million. One possible theory: Perhaps if the sexy stars of Stealth were engaged in a scandalous real-life relationship and had their pretty kissers on every magazine cover at the time of release, the movie might’ve risen to the same monetary heights as Mr. & Mrs. Smith.
After a mere six years together, John and Jane Smith (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, as if you didn’t know) are having marital problems. As they explain to an unseen counselor (an uncredited William Fichtner offering his strangely soothing voice), their daily existence has become monotonous and their mutual interest is as dry as their sex life (the implausibility of which doesn’t even approach the boundaries of disbelief required by the following two hours).
What the Smiths don’t realize is that they’re each secretly professional killers for shady government firms (What agencies do they work for? Who exactly are these people they kill and why? Shut up, brain! It doesn’t matter, because “assassin” is a glamorous occupation!), and when they go off to their respective jobs they’re doing it in the execution sense of the term. That is, until they’re both dispatched to eliminate the same target (The O.C. geek Adam Brody), only to find one other in their sights.
Holy matrimony and hollowpoint bullets seems like a match made in heaven, right? With their true natures revealed, they each arrive at the conclusion that they have to exterminate the other, which isn’t an emotional issue since their whole marriage was really just their cover story all along. But no, wait, they suddenly realize that they do in fact have genuine feelings for one another, around the same time they discover that their assignment was merely bait by their employers to get them to kill each other. So they team up to shoot more holes than the plot in the hundreds of faceless stormtroopers sent to finish the task.
Director Doug Liman steadied his action/espionage legs on The Bourne Identity, a moderately intelligent combination of international intrigue and exciting violence. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (which presumably has nothing to do with the 1996 Scott Bakula/Maria Bello spy series of the same name, instead borrowing from Prizzi’s Honor) is supposed to be some sly satire on marriage, but it’s so broad it could be considered a country (e.g., John keeps his weapon stash in his manly tool shed, while Jane’s arsenal is hidden in her oven – gunpowder and explosives in the hottest place in the house, perfectly reasonable, whatever. They later have the “how many” discussion, plainly referring to completed contracts but implying sexual partners. Clever!).
While Liman has proven capable with frenetic big-screen action (even if the endless climactic massacre feels more like a montage), he’s apparently decided to focus all his formerly quirky energy on superficial spectacle — explosions and shattered glass and nonsensical car chases are the priority, leaving character development among the body count. Coincidentally, screenwriter Simon Kinberg also wrote XXX: State of the
Pitt and Jolie are undeniably magnetic on the screen – both actors are at their best when playing mischievous characters. But here they don’t demonstrate any real chemistry as a couple (which, like the rest of the movie, is inconsistent with reality), leaving me utterly impartial if they murder each other, reconcile their marriage or successfully shoot up a department store full of heavily armed goons. To their credit, they expend every last conceivable ounce of charisma in a failed effort to prevent viewers from realizing just how incompetent the script actually is (assuming there was one – they obviously started production with only a high-concept pitch of “War of the Roses meets True Lies” and just made up the rest as they went along). As John’s hitman peer, Vince Vaughn once again plays Vince Vaughn, the exact same tiresome motormouth sidekick shtick he’s essentially been doing since Swingers. Those are pretty much the only three major humans whose sole purpose isn’t to be shot, stabbed or detonated (although Kiss Kiss Bang Bang cutie Michelle Monaghan does get about three lines). Even the two sleek leads are not immune from extreme bodily damage, particularly a rather disturbing sequence (inappropriately set to the peppy funk tune “Express Yourself” in a repugnantly unsuccessful attempt at comedic effect) that gives new meaning to the term domestic abuse, where John and Jane trash their own home while viciously pummeling the crap out of each other – John kicks his dazed wife not just once, but three times. Hilarious!
A bombastic mix of banal bickering and pyrotechnic overkill, Mr. & Mrs. Smith steamrolls through a procession of silly setpieces (Jane’s emergency evacuation procedure for leaving her high-rise office involves shooting harpoons into nearby buildings and escaping on a zip-line, naturally) that escalates in preposterous mayhem right up to its exasperatingly unsatisfying conclusion (it feels like a whole reel is missing even though the film is already unnecessarily bloated by at least 30 minutes). What should be breezy fun just feels vapidly smug, a film desperately trying to convince me I should be entertained. And while the glossy sheen of the film and its smirky stars may hold plenty of visual appeal, such alluring talent is all but wasted in a soulless travesty of a story that lacks suspense, laughs or, most importantly for a movie ultimately about marriage, romance.
5.0 out of 10
The anamorphic widescreen transfer is as pristine as the screenplay is flawed, with nice detail and vivid explosions. Also perfect: Jolie’s juicy lips.
8.5 out of 10
I live for DTS tracks, and this is the ideal type of movie for it — with cacophonous carnage occurring approximately every seven minutes, this audio is more active than Tara Reid on a Vegas weekend. Runner-up prize: Dolby Digital 5.1.
9.5 out of 10
Director Liman (who has an annoying Valley Girl vocal cadence where his voice rises at the end of statements, making them sound like questions) and writer Kinberg team on the main commentary, covering numerous aspects of the production and affirming my suspicion that the script was nowhere near ready (Jolie, who replaced Nicole Kidman late in the process, seems to have come up with some of the movie’s better moments). They also discuss alternate and deleted scenes that aren’t even included among the special features (though I doubt even a director’s cut can rescue this tragedy), and talk about the changes made due to budgetary concerns (which Liman also experienced on Bourne) even though the final product somehow cost upwards of $110 million. And they’re obviously under the impression their film is better and far more subtle than the slapdash jackhammer they actually created.
Two more commentaries are also present: producers Lucas Foster and Akiva Goldsman tag-team, while editor Michael Tronick, production designer Jeff Mann and FX supervisor Kevin Elam join in for the other. These both contain plenty of information, but they’re not exactly a blast to listen to.
The three deleted scenes contain more of Vaughn’s annoying unscripted riffing, a longer version of a scene where Jane and her all-girl crew of cronies comb through the Smith home, and an extension of the already-protracted final shootout. And there’s the brisk eight-minute “Making a Scene” featurette that originally aired on Fox Movie Channel, concentrating on a stunt where Jane runs down her hubby with a car. Other than that, trailers (for this movie, the upcoming thriller The Sentinel, and apropos of nothing, the Family Guy DTV movie). If you dig the film, you might as well wait for the inevitable balls-out/tits-out 2-disc edition, because there ain’t much here.
4.0 out of 10
There was definitely nothing wrong with the theatrical poster(s), and they’ve wisely used it for the cover image. A suave Brad and a good look at Jolie’s stellar stems gets a stamp of approval.
8.0 out of 10