“Patience is required, but decent fun when it gets going.”
Just imagine Jennifer Aniston watching this film: every time Ange appears on the screen, or gazes lovingly at Brad, Jen shrieks maniacally, “Die, sluuuuuut!” Such thoughts will keep you entertained during the sluggish first hour – you’ll need them, while you wait for the characters to realise what we know from the start: Mr. and Mrs. Smith are both assassins, now targeted by their respective agencies. For that is when the fun finally starts, not the overlong lead-up, where Brad + Angelina can only sustain the plot’s conceit (that – tee-hee! – they don’t know each other’s real jobs) by abject stupidity that flies directly in the face of their characters. She’s supposedly a top-level assassin with 300+ kills to her name, yet doesn’t notice hubby’s Batman-sized lair beneath the potting shed? Puh-lease…
But, must say, I enjoyed the action, which is directed with imagination – for example, Jolie abseiling down a building using only her handbag, provoking a rare “Wow!” from this jaded fan. Jolie is just right: it’s difficult to imagine the other options (Kidman, Zeta-Jones, Blanchett and, um, Gwen Stefani) doing as well. And the sniping banter between husband and wife has a particularly enjoyable sense of irony when its punctuated by… er, actual sniping. Some might say this both glorifies and trivializes the whole issue of domestic violence – and watching them brawl their way round the house before, naturally, tearing each other’s clothes off, it’s hard to argue. Yet at its best, this takes the “War of the Sexes” to a whole new level (she works for an agency that’s mostly women; he, for one that’s largely guys), and that angle could certainly merit more exploration.
We don’t know whether the Smiths are “good”, “bad” or independent contractors, an interesting approach (we have no moral compass beyond their actions), yet disappointing. For another weakness is that the villains are merely faceless minions, when the genre needs a Big Bad for the climax – the obvious one here is the people that ordered the terminations. Liman, whose Bourne Identity was also about a killer with a contract on his head, might appreciate this more than most, and word is two such endings were shot, just not used. Still, I suspect that the sequel – likely inevitable, given this was one of 2005’s top ten at the US box-office – could very well be more fun than the original. At least we’ll have all the tedious set-up out of the way.
Dir: Doug Liman
Stars: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Vince Vaughn, Kerry Washington