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Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

by on 2011/02/05

“Happy endings are for stories that haven’t finished yet.”

* * * *

Though I didn’t remember specifics, I knew I’d seen 2005’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith before.  My only memories were unflattering so, as I gave it another shot, I couldn’t believe I’d been watching the same movie.  It’s hardly Alfred Hitchcock, but Doug Liman’s follow up to The Bourne Identity (2002) — while less than original — is quick, clever fun.

John and Jane Smith (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) meet in suspicious circumstances in Bogota, Colombia.  Using each other as an excuse to escape the law, they spend the next six weeks together, before getting engaged.

Five or six years later, they’re distant, uninterested, and in counseling.  She believes him to be in construction.  He thinks of her as a “Batman for computers”, working with a firm called I-Temp.  In one of the story’s rare failed conceits, neither is aware the other is an assassin . . . until the day when each becomes the other’s target.

Of course, that’s just the setup.  After the first half hour, a series of relentless twists follow, feeling more like connected vignettes than fluid turns.

The cast is small, yet effective, with prominent parts played by Vince Vaughn (Four Christmases, Swingers) as John’s friend Eddie, and Adam Brody (Growing Up Brady, Thank You for Smoking) as Benjamin Danz, a pivotal mutual mark.  The periphery is shored up by Angela Bassett and William Fichtner (both of Strange Days), and Keith David (1982’s The Thing and 1995‘s Quick and the Dead).

Every once in a while, I encounter an effort that feels like a collection of others’ highlights.  Mr. & Mrs. Smith is one them and, although they can be hit or miss, the approach works here.

  • The premise of True Lies.
  • The interpersonal dynamics of War of the Roses.
  • The “confessional” framing of Thomas Crown Affair or When Harry Met Sally.
  • The uncomfortable mealtimes of Citizen Kane.
  • The neighbourhood parties of Mission Impossible 3.
  • The baby-studying of Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
  • The underground weapons cache, also of Terminator 2.
  • The pivotal dance scene of Never Say Never Again.
  • The incursion of Sneakers.
  • The elevator Muzak of both Deep Rising and Dawn of the Dead (2004).
  • The informer in a Fight Club shirt.
  • And other more spoiling parallels.

I had a lot of fun with Mr. & Mrs. Smith.  I wasn’t expecting much, but I was proven wrong.  Any “drinking game” bumps are smoothed out by the overall speed, interest, and entertainment value.  The end result is a fun and funny, even endearing, game of cat and mouse.

* * * *

Rated PG13/14A for adult situations, language, and violence

120 minutes

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