Before watching the movie:
I was always a little intrigued by this movie, so I’m not sure why I never got around to it. Maybe it was because I was only a little intrigued. A married couple get turned against each other by the realization that they’re assassins for rival organizations, not a hundred percent my thing. Spy comedies are fun, but I’m not sure how much this is spy or how much it’s comedy. The actors don’t especially grab me either. I never had strong feelings either way about Pitt or Jolie, and I’ve got no idea who else is in it. I guess the most lasting cultural impact of this movie wasn’t the movie itself but the debut of Pitt and Jolie’s real-world tabloid relationship, and I could not care in the slightest about celebrity relationships.
It sure looks like an expensive house they end up shooting to pieces though. That’s something nice to look at.
After watching the movie:
John and Jane Smith have been married for five or six years and are now in couples’ therapy. Though when they met in Colombia, both secretly on contract kill missions and using the other as an opportunity to get the authorities to stop questioning why they’re traveling alone they kindled a passionate relationship, now their jobs as “construction executive (disorganized but hands-on killer)”, and “tech support consultant (high tech well-oiled machine assassin)”, keep them too busy to spend much time with each other. When John and Jane’s firms both assign them to prevent a transfer of a DIA prisoner, they interfere with each other and now have orders to eliminate the unexpected person who could ID them within 48 hours, but both quickly realize the rival operative was their spouse. Both assuming the other knew all along and was working a long undercover mission, they feel they have no option but to go ahead and liquidate the their sham spouse, kicking off a cat and mouse rivalry of equally matched skill, but both conflicted about the thought of killing their lover.
I always thought that the big, setpiece, home destroying shootout was the climax of the movie, but it’s the midpoint, where as expected they ultimately find they love each other too much and stop trying to kill each other, only what I did not expect was the bigger threat they have to team up to face. It’s a bit strange that they work as single-agent killers with some support behind them, but when their 48 hours are up, they have to fight basically faceless armies. It makes for a somewhat less exciting back half as all of the nuance and internal conflict is gone and the rest is basically just a backdrop for the Smiths to rekindle and retool their romance through blowing stuff up.
Vince Vaughn was an unexpected presence. This is a spectacle-oriented action movie with a bit of comedy and in the middle of it, John’s closest partner at work is a schlubby comic relief loser. Vaughn is so much of another world that he didn’t feel like he belonged with everything else going on. Conversely, I could’ve done with more of Keith David as Jane’s shadowy boss. But essentially, the movie is Pitt and Jolie. And they’re fine. Better together than against each other, I guess.
The action sequence shooting up the home goes on a bit too long, but it’s charged with character arc and it’s an interesting location to watch get destroyed, so I don’t mind it too much. The car chase is fun but that’s largely from the characters learning to work together for the first time. The final showdown at A Mall I Guess is bloated and overlong and little actually happens and if it wasn’t the big finale could’ve easily been a third the length. The plot arc is basically finished when it begins anyway, so I’d rather have more denouement and less spectacle.
This is a movie of diminishing returns. The more the story develops through its concept, the less interesting it is. Falling into the problem of having the story drag on without much idea what to do with the characters and losing tension after the central couple go to bed is usually a television problem. The first two thirds of this movie is a lot of fun, but the final act drags badly even as the action ramps up. It’s a disappointing finish to an otherwise really fun movie, and I wish they could’ve found a better way to wrap things up.