On Screen

'Smith': A Marriage Of Mayhem And Wit

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 10, 2005

IF YOU KNOW only one thing about "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," other than the fact that it stars Brangelina -- which is to say, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, for those who don't read the entertainment mags -- you probably also know that it's about husband-and-wife assassins who wake up one day to discover that their next targets are . . . each other. And if you know this much, you can probably also guess that there's really only one plot trajectory it can possibly follow, and that's: Kiss kiss bang bang.

Or rather: Bang bang kiss kiss. By which I mean that they first try to kill each other, and then, um, they don't. Yes, there will be make-up sex in this movie, and it will be hot (or at least as hot as a PG-13 movie can get). How can it not be when it's Brad and Angelina? Hey, you got to give the people what they want.

Interestingly, by the time we get to the make-up sex, the movie is only halfway over.

So where does it go from there?

Actually, to some highly enjoyable places. Such as the interior of a speeding minivan, which is put through exceedingly un-soccer-mom-ish paces as our heroes John and Jane Smith, still not exactly lovey-dovey, but now united against a new and common enemy -- the result of an unexpected twist -- tear down the highway shooting bullets at other bad guys while bickering like a couple of old marrieds. The best touch: Air Supply's syrupy 1983 hit "Making Love Out of Nothing at All" playing over the car stereo, with Pitt singing along.

Another great scene takes place in one of those big-box stores you see all over suburbia, a setting whose Middle American vibe gives director Doug Liman ample opportunity to have fun while staging the film's exciting, violent and deadpan-witty climax, which evokes everything from "The Wild Bunch" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" to the "Kill Bill" films.

This wry juxtaposition of highly trained killers performing their jobs within the pedestrian circumstances of, well, my life is precisely what's best about "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," a film whose darkly comic script by Simon Kinberg evokes the deadly/sexy mood of the Coen brothers' equally acerbic "Intolerable Cruelty," as well as "Prizzi's Honor." It's a script where lines such as "I missed you" and "I missed you, too," take on a deliciously blackhearted double-entendre, and where the normal pitfalls of couplehood get perverted into something wonderfully sick. For example, like a husband who gets jealous after finding out his wife has had more lovers than he, John goes a little green when he learns that the number of his confirmed career kills (50 or 60 tops) pales in comparison to Jane's 312.


Then there's John's best friend and co-worker in the hit man trade, Eddie (Vince Vaughn), a divorcé who lives with his mother, amid all manner of killing implements and sad bachelor paraphernalia. He, along with the rest of the talented supporting cast, make "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" a kicky, twisted thrill ride, with enough laughs to leaven what can be read, at heart, as a metaphor for the modern marriage.

MR. & MRS. SMITH (PG-13, 112 minutes) -- Contains obscenity, violence and sexual content. Area theaters.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company