For richer or deader
Superstar looks of Pitt and Jolie are about all lame story has going for it
The narrative hook of the new Brad Pitt vehicle, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, is so extravagantly silly that audiences are given leave to expect very little and then to feel a flimsy tremor of surprise when the thing manages to be funny and/or bold for a moment or two.
The basic premise—two sleek professional assassins (Pitt and Angelina Jolie) are (a) married and (b) ordered to kill each other—offers, at the very least, sex and violence and, at the outer edges of possibility, a wry sort of dabbling in the psychology of romance coupled with a psychosexual take-off of the bloodless orgies of balletic violence that prevail in action movies worldwide. But what actually turns up onscreen is something less than the sum of its potentially provocative parts.
Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Swingers, and Go!) has previously shown a deft touch with comedy and action alike. But here neither he nor his actors are up to the perhaps impossible task of making coherent entertainment out of Simon Kinberg’s patently outlandish script. The kinky ironies of mixing romantic comedy within a high-body-count action flick don’t take us far in this case, and the grafting of two starkly disparate genres ends up working to the detriment of both.
Pitt and Jolie provide predictable amounts of star power in the title roles, and they make occasionally effective pairings in both the comic bi-play and the physical action. In rare moments of nuance, each of the stars hints at emotional undercurrents beneath the characters’ surfaces of toughness and beauty—self-doubt in Pitt/Mr. and lethal coldness in Jolie/Mrs. But neither characterization ever has much chance of making any real sense.
Vince Vaughn gets in a moment or two of ostensible comic relief, as Mr. Smith’s chief cohort, but Mr. & Mrs. Smith is mostly a two-person show. And its odds and ends of comic success are enough to make you wish there had been a better reason for making so much of this movie look like little more than an ultra-violent video game.