Mr. and Mrs. Smith received all the wrong kind of attention prior to its opening day-the type of unbalanced focus on the off-screen exploits of a film's stars that has proven deadly for films like the disastrous Gigli.
But Mr. and Mrs. Smith (rated PG-13 for violence, intense action, sexual content, and brief strong language) made over $50 million in its first weekend at the box office. Why? Director Doug Liman fully exploits the strengths of his stars in an efficient, stylishly directed action thriller. This doesn't make Mr. and Mrs. Smith a good (and certainly not a recommended) movie, but one has to begrudgingly admire Mr. Liman for his craft.
The sometimes clever, sometimes preposterous script has two top-class assassins unwittingly married to each other. John Smith (Brad Pitt) works for a grungy, hole-in-the-wall operation headed by Vince Vaughn, but claims to be a building contractor. Jane Smith (Angelina Jolie) heads up an all-female team of killers housed in a high-tech skyscraper, but claims to be in real estate.
The film begins with the two in marital counseling. They've been married five (or six-the number is a point of contention) years, and the once-passionate romance is cooling off. The two skirt around various domestic issues and squabbles, obviously avoiding the giant pink elephant in the room: that husband and wife both travel the world as contract killers.
The story line makes quick work of blowing their cover. Once John and Jane discover the truth, their sights (literally) are turned on each other. After that, it's a bloodless (the film is too slick for blood) but deadly race to escape the hundreds of other operatives that want the couple dead.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith is firmly tongue in cheek, with nothing grounded in reality, save, perhaps, the explosively exaggerated trials of married life. In that regard, the film does come around to a certain amount of sweetness, but one has to turn off nearly every other moral concern in order to appreciate this tiny kernel of good.
While Mr. and Mrs. Smith does contain a few provocative scenes, the film isn't as sexual as its trailers suggest. Mr. Liman too much enjoys staging elaborate, stylized stabbings, shootings, and bombings to slow down regularly for intimate moments. But the body count in the film itself is remarkably high and the "ethics" of the Smiths' chosen profession are uniformly laughed off.