U.S. Release Date: June 10, 2005
Distributor: Fox
Director: Doug Liman
Writer: Simon Kinberg
Producer: Akiva Goldsman, Arnon Milchan
Composer: John Powell
Cast: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Vince Vaughn, Adam Brody, Kerry Washington, Keith David, Michelle Monaghan
Running Time: 1 hour and 55 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (sequences of violence, intense action, sexual content and brief strong language)

Married Assassins Strictly a Current Affair
by Scott Holleran

That living in matrimony is like being a mercenary is the premise of the spunky Mr. and Mrs. Smith, starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Taking its time, the story of two married, professional assassins fumbles after an hour or so, cramming action into a vehicle running solely on celebrity fumes.

Relying on the sparks between saucy Jolie and sexy Pitt, Mr. and Mrs. Smith opens with the famous pair as a couple of good-looking misfits, not unlike their off-screen personas, struggling to save their marriage in counseling and playing off screenwriter Simon Kinberg's (XXX: State of the Union) witty lines. It is a likable start, teasing that this unlikely couple might work things out, live happily ever after and fight a whole lot of action-packed crime in the meantime.

She works for an inexplicably all-female secret government unit. He works for a competing agency. Neither of them knows the other one is licensed to kill. When the same assignment lands on their desks, they are caught in the crossfire, and, soon, their guns are hired for each other's heads. Until now, the sparring is, thanks to Pitt, who exhibits a flair for comedy in a role that fits his beer-chugging Super Bowl ad image, light, fun and driven purely by a wink at well-known celebrity.

With the coupled killers at each other's throats, Mr. and Mrs. Smith instantly becomes less interesting. Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) squelches the humorous marital rivalry with physical conflict, and the shift to hate-based thrills erases the lighter tone.

Buffed Pitt and svelte Jolie spend what feels like an hour trying to blow each other's brains out—in the kitchen, in the tool shed, at the office—until they decide to join forces. Not quite trusting one another, they wind up taking on the feds, who by now aim to cancel both their contracts, in a warehouse store. They scuffle and pump lead like Bonnie and Clyde or, with hardened Jolie at the trigger, Butch and Sundance.

A jarring transition from celebrity skip-a-long—as innocuous as cotton candy—to twin terminators mowing down whatever moves undercuts the romantic gunplay that's necessary to seal this bond. The fault lies partly with Jolie or whoever let her character be harsher than a drill sergeant at four o'clock in the morning.

While Pitt comes off as game for anything, Jolie's Mrs. Smith acts as if she ate Jason Bourne's computer chip for breakfast. She's all kill. When she needs to soften and show interest in fighting for something—say, a marriage—it is as believable as a one-night stand. Showing neither remorse nor reciprocity, she tries to nix him as often as she rejects his pleas to work things out. She is always shooting first, usually at him. Her abrasive maneuvers emasculate Pitt and annul them as a couple for whom to root.

Action scenes are proficient, including a lively car chase, but, without an exit strategy, they're long and tedious. The most fun here is the performance by Pitt, who acts like he is relieved of the pressure of being a class act. While he relaxes, he also reaches his peak in a mediocre movie that isn't worth the fuss.

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