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Movie Review

"There's just this huge space between us, and it just keeps filling up with everything we don't say to each other," Jane Smith confesses to a counselor. "What's that called?"

"Marriage," he replies.

So begins Mr. & Mrs. Smith, an odd hybrid that's one part action flick (à la 1994's True Lies), one part romantic comedy. On the surface, John and Jane Smith's mundane marriage is indistinguishable from that of Mr. and Mrs. Everyman in Suburbia, USA. Emotional distance has led the couple to counseling to reinvigorate their stale six-year-old union—a partnership languishing in the day-to-day doldrums. Or so they think.

Though their initial meeting at a bar in revolution-torn Bogotá, Colombia, should have given them a clue, neither knows what lurks under the workaday facade of the other: a deadly assassin.

But when both hit men (or is it hit people?) are assigned to the same target, their tepid marriage heats up—explosively. The expert killers' differing approaches (his: brash, seat-of-the-pants; hers: meticulous, clinical) cancel one another out and botch the job, revealing their secret identities in the process. Their respective employers deal with this "security problem" by giving the husband and wife assassins 48 hours to kill each other.

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Positive Elements

Amid the sexualized violence that permeates Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a surprisingly strong pro-marriage message. [Spoiler Warning] Both sparring partners eventually discover they actually are still deeply in love. And once each one quits trying to kill the other, the Smiths fight ferociously to protect their marriage from the army of assassins sent by both of their agencies to take them out. They even learn to tell each other the truth and trust each other. (At one point, John tells his wife, "We're going to have to redo every conversation we've ever had.") The film thus uses physical violence as a metaphor for battling through the inevitable rough spots in marriage. In the end, both Smiths decide their relationship matters more than their "jobs" and that they're willing to sacrifice themselves for each other to protect what they have.

Spiritual Content

The Smiths steal their neighbor's minivan, which has a cross hanging on the mirror—obviously played for humor. They also steal "Jesus Rocks" coats from the vehicle. When it looks as if the Smiths will be killed, John says, "See you in the next life, Jane."

Sexual Content

In the opening scene, Mr. and Mrs. Smith's counselor asks them, "How often do you have sex?" Both are hesitant to answer, and John Smith asks, "Counting the weekend?" When the couple returns to counseling at the end of the movie, John says, "Ask us the sex question again."

Between these narrative bookends, sexual tension and innuendo infuse practically every scene. Early on in a bar, Jane reaches for a weapon in her garter belt, revealing a lot of leg—and giving us a hint at the connection between sex and violence to come. John and Jane make out in the rain, then spend the night together immediately after meeting. Jane wakes up covered by a sheet (but apparently naked underneath) the next morning. She's hardly awake before the pair begins kissing passionately.

Later, Jane is shown in her bra and a slip. She also does a "job" that requires her to wear a leather dominatrix outfit and to whip her target's backside—before breaking his neck. A conversation about how many people they've killed is ambiguous enough to make audiences think they're talking about sexual partners.

A house-wrecking skirmish between the Smiths is depicted as violent foreplay. [Spoiler Warning] When the pair finally decides they can't kill each other, they rip each other's clothes off (her bra is visible) and have aggressive, almost violent sex on the floor. Subsequently, they're attacked and have to flee in their underwear.

Two scenes show the couple dancing provocatively; John shoves Jane around violently in the second. Jane often wears tight-fitting or revealing outfits (such as fishnet stockings or a nightgown). Finally, banter between the Smiths occasionally includes sexually charged double entendres.

Violent Content

As noted above, much of the film's violence is closely linked to sexuality. This is most apparent in the massive home-front battle between the Smiths. They shoot at each other. She hits him in the head with a frying pan. He breaks wine bottles over her head. He kicks her brutally when she's on the floor. And she kicks him in the crotch. The fight is played for laughs (John taunts, "Your aim is as bad as your cooking") and as a bizarre form of creepily violent, sexualized therapy.

The rest of the violence is what you'd expect from the director of The Bourne Identity: high body count, but not too much blood or gore. John gets pummeled in a sparring match at his boxing gym. Jane jumps out of a moving car. Both Smiths take out scores of enemies with various guns and explosives. Jane kills several assailants by hurling kitchen knives at them—and accidentally plants one in her husband's leg. She hits an attacker in the head with a golf club. Two bad guys get run over by the Smiths' "Christian" minivan. Three pursuing BMWs are variously dispatched with explosives and fancy driving. The Smiths' house explodes.

In perhaps the film's most memorable scene, the Smiths defend themselves from a horde of attackers. In slow motion, the pair begins a choreographed dance-like sequence as they shoot one enemy after another. I never thought I'd witness a scene that outdid The Matrix's infamous lobby battle in terms of glorifying violence. But this one gets the job done in a way that makes killing people look cooler than perhaps anything I've ever seen in a movie.

Crude or Profane Language

Profanity flows frequently. Characters take Jesus' name in vain at least five times and God's a handful more. The s-word is used twice. "A--" and "b--ch" turn up four or five times each, "h---" three times, etc. A harsh slang term for female anatomy is tossed out once.

Drug and Alcohol Content

John and Jane drink shots at a bar when they meet, then guzzle long draughts from a bottle. They drink wine at meals. John drinks and pretends to be drunk to deceive a target's henchmen. Jane drinks champagne and John orders a martini at a restaurant. The way the characters drink—including hard liquor—suggests that it's a regular, normal part of the lifestyle.

Other Negative Elements

Comedic cynicism permeates the script. When John asks his agency manager how he's doing, Eddie responds, "Same old, same old: People need killin'." John tells him that his wife tried to kill him, and Eddie smirks, "They all try to kill you. I live with my mom because she's the only woman I've ever trusted." Jane tells John, "Happy endings are just stories that haven't finished yet."

Conclusion

Trailers for Mr. & Mrs. Smith showed a couple at war with one another, and they made it clear that that was supposed to be funny. But that's not funny, and I walked into the theater hoping the film would go places that weren't hinted at in the previews.

It did.

I sat watching this extraordinarily dysfunctional couple's attempts to tell the truth for the first time in their marriage. And it occurred to me that if I could just set aside the movie's disturbing confluence of sex and violence, I could really enjoy what was shaping up to be a pretty well-written (if utterly unbelievable) story about assassins and the ones who love them.

Alas, it is impossible to set aside such a union. The film ends with a wink at the audience as the Smiths' therapist comments on conflict in marriage: "Sometimes you just have to battle through, you have to take your best shot." Perhaps four or five hundred shots would be more like it. The movie's message about telling the truth and keeping your commitments is a positive one. But it's riddled with bullets, bodies and bodices. The makers of Mr. & Mrs. Smith seemed most interested in giving Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie a chance to blow lots of stuff up, kiss and make up—and look very good doing it.

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Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

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