On the surface John and Jane Smith are an ordinary suburban couple struggling with their troubled marriage. But each is hiding something the other would kill to know: Mr. and Mrs. Smith are actually highly paid assassins, and they work for competing organizations. Then the Smiths discover a new source of excitement in their marriage, when they're hired to assassinate each other.
Like a lot of recent blockbusters "Mr and Mrs Smith" is an expensive, high gloss piece of eye candy. Unlike their predecessors the belligerent Smiths manage to put on an entertaining show, but this is often in spite of the special effects and glitz, not because of them.
While dramatic car chases and huge explosions will always appeal to the kid inside everyone, audiences do long for some depth of intelligence to back up all the big bangs. "The Matrix" is one of the better examples of how a little intelligence (some might call it pseudo-intelligence) goes a long way.
By far the best bits of "Mr and Mrs Smith" are the little touches of wit - the amusing banter between a troubled young couple. In the middle of the movie's spectacularly expensive car chase scene, for instance, it's the repartee that keeps us engaged, not the stunts.
That said, you can't help but admire the dedication the filmmakers put into making the film flawlessly pretty. Every object, every surface glows or sparkles. The actors seem to be surrounded by halos of perfection. Even their cuts and bruises are designed to make them look as good as possible. But admiration only takes you so far, and the smattering of intelligence and charm isn't enough to make this film into anything more than a mildly amusing diversion.
Of course content will be secondary to many viewers - hordes of whom are queuing up to watch "the movie that split up Brad and Jen". There's nothing Hollywood loves more than a good scandal to pump up the profits and "Mr and Mrs Smith" has provided one of the best in years - Tinsel Town's super couple split up by a cartoonishly voluptuous and famously unstable temptress.
But if you're hoping to be able to see the sparks flying between Brad and Angelina, you're sure to be disappointed. In the short breaks between the relentless action sequences, the pair are anything but passionate. Instead they are coldly professional and focussed on looking as cool as possible, which something both of them do extremely well.
In some ways you could see "Mr and Mrs Smith" as a reflection of modern Hollywood. Like the movie, the industry it springs from is obsessed with appearance but is ultimately cold and detached. But that kind of analysis is utterly pointless in this case - this is a high gloss blockbuster, not a piece of art. Which brings us to the bottom line: is it great cinema? Hell no! But is it fun to watch? Hell yes!
- Alistair Fairweather
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