Mr. & Mrs. Smith Review

Mr. & Mrs. Smith is an empty, vacuous and ultimately infuriating film that cost $100 million dollars to make yet pales in comparison to works such as Reservoir Dogs which was made for a hundredth of this film's cost. As well as confirming my assumption that big-budget studio blockbusters have little merit and usually end up as tedious exercises in banality, Mr. & Mrs. Smith actually manages to waste a good deal of cinematic talent during its two-hour duration. Doug Liman, the film's director, came to this project fresh from Go and The Bourne Identity, two films which proved that he could deal with drama and action with panache and technical competency, yet even Liman can't stop Mr. & Mrs. Smith from descending into one horrific train wreck of a film. It seems to be constantly winking at the audience as if we should realise just how clever this crude reworking and amalgamation of ideas from other, much more enjoyable films really is. Similarly, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are both movie stars with considerable charisma and screen presence, and even if they lack the necessary acting chops to ever endear themselves as credible performers, they nevertheless possess the right amount of verve and talent to normally succeed in flashy, tongue-in-cheek studio fodder. So how did they fail, much like the project in which they headline?

Well, before I get onto the film's plentiful flaws, it seems necessary to describe the film's wafer-thin excuse for a plot. John Smith (Pitt) is an assassin who is married to Jane (Jolie), another world-class assassin – yet the marital couple fail to realise each other's real profession. As their relationship begins to falter due to their lack of communication and affection in day-to-day affairs, they seek marriage counselling before their respective employers suddenly realise that both John and Jane, this perfect suburban couple, are assassins. This problem must be dealt with, so the feuding employers devise a plan in which Mr. and Mrs. Smith will ultimately kill each other…

It is actually a misleading sign of what is to come after the film opens with a very amusing and highly witty scene as John and Jane receive marriage counselling from an off-screen guru. However, this sense of humour and comical pathos is soon lost as the screenwriter Simon Kinberg begins the slow and arduous task of recycling cliché after movie cliché before the film reaches its conclusion, long after my brain switched off and my heart stopped beating. Kinberg is to blame for the majority of the film's failings, and when one looks at his screenwriting CV – he wrote (scrawled?) xXx: State of the Union as well as "rewriting" Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Elektra, Fantastic Four and Catwoman – it is not surprising that the script is, to put it bluntly, absolutely awful. Lines are terrible (albeit delivered with a vaguely ironic charm by Pitt and Jolie), the plot is convoluted to the extreme, events happen with no regard to continuity or plausibility, and the narrative is simply a crass pyrotechnics show dragged out over 115 pages; woe betide those fans eagerly anticipating X-Men 3. Within this turgid structure Liman exhibits signs of ADHD, Pitt and Jolie look bored, and things. Just. Happen. I can't really remember the intricacies of the story or even the point of the conclusion, other than the film's apparent need to sate teenage gun fantasies. Mr. & Mrs. Smith plays like an extended gun commercial, showcasing just how cool you'll look if you wield two semi-automatics in a room full of sparks. Oh, and with Angelina Jolie attached to your back.

You see, Doug Liman's failing in this film is that he has completely abandoned his visual style and sense of vision in order to fulfil the studio's orders that the film should have a generic, kinetic style in which the camera swoops and zooms across landscapes that have been digitally altered to resemble a Tony Scott-esque environment of high contrast and hallucinating colours. However, Liman is much more suited to the realms of realism, with The Bourne Identity standing as testament to his skills as a director when he plays it intimately with a handheld camera, a keen eye and a smaller, more introspective scope. Sadly, Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a bombastic yet ultimately hollow romp through deserts, high-rise buildings and across freeways in a vain bid to find some form of meaning or power within the material.

Gossip mills went into overdrive during the film's production after it was revealed that Pitt and Jolie were actually jumping each other's bones in real life. Thankfully, their off-set chemistry has resulted in a very palpable sense of connection in this film and although their characters are inane creations who grate after ten minutes, the two actors' chemistry is vaguely entertaining and amusing at certain points. Similarly, one of the film's only highlights comes when Jolie dons a dominatrix outfit; sadly, it is a sure sign of how bad a film is when a reviewer states that a film's most entertaining moment was the appearance of a certain costume, even if it is made out of black leather that hugs a particular actresses' curvaceous physique.

The Disc
Released through Fox's Canadian wing, this is the Widescreen version of the DVD presented in dual-language packaging. It would appear that there are some very minor differences between the R1 and UK R2 editions, concerning the exact amount of extra features provided.

The menus are simple yet stylish; they are very easy to navigate. English and Spanish subtitles are provided during the main feature - they are presented in a clear and readable font.

Audio-Visual Presentation
Unsurprisingly, such a modern film receives a very good video transfer that certainly showcases the film's various locations in detail. Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, the print looks crisp and clear throughout with no traces of damage or grain. Aside from the odd moment of aliasing, I had no quibbles with the video presentation whatsoever.

Likewise, the film receives a similar level of audio presentation with both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround-sound mixes on offer. The DTS has the edge, offering a fuller soundstage that heightens the sense of action during certain moments in the film, but both soundtracks present dialogue and music clearly. French and Spanish surround tracks are also provided.

Three audio commentaries form the bulk of the extra material on the disc. The first, by Doug Liman and Simon Kinberg, is insightful and relatively informative as the duo dissects the project's origins and its development. The second commentary, by producers Lucas Foster and Akiva Goldsman, is a little drier but still offers some good titbits from a financial and producer's point of view. The third and final commentary is the weakest of the trio – and the one that is missing from the R2 edition – which is a conversation between editor Michael Tronick, production designer Jeff Mann and visual effects supervisor Kevin Elam. There are some moments of interesting information but on the whole the trio make for rather uninspiring commentators.

A ten-minute featurette, "Making a Scene", analyses and explains how the filmmaker's approached the execution of one of the film's tepid set-pieces; rather fluffy and lacking any real meat, to be honest. Three deleted scenes (which add nothing to the finished film) and a selection of trailers round off the package.

A dismal, empty film presented on a solid DVD. I would advise fans of the film to get this disc for virtue of the fact that they will get an extra audio commentary as part of the package. This disc's lack of featurettes does however suggest that a special edition could be on the cards in the near future. I'm sure that will please the film's legion of fans...

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Last updated: 19/04/2018 07:02:10

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