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Mr. & Mrs. Smith
DVD
Starring Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie
(Discounted from Amazon)
. "Wanted"

Bullet trajectories that arc around corners, bullets neutralizing bullets like anti-missile missiles, exploding rats, unleashing of massive kinetic forces, and impossible sniper shots are just some of the pings of pleasure this film comic strip brings to the avid action fan. But, at its core, the concept is about the transformation of a bumbling accountant into a gifted assassin and the revenge that soaks into every crevice and corner of the scenario.

It's a story of extremes and exaggerations as unbounded by reality as helium by gravity. In this, it captures the essence of its comic strip elements of legends, myths, secret societies, crazed action sequences and a level of marksmanship that could have limited the Iraq occupation to a month or so. It features the Hollywood debut of Russian vampire master Timur Bekmambetov ("Night Watch") and his use (overuse?) of all the CGI effects from "The Matrix" to "Transformers," juggling cars and trains like ten-pins, slowing motion at every whim, and overnight healing of slash wounds, bullet holes and bone crushing impacts. You know, the stuff every kid dreams about.

An after-titles legend informs us of a secret society known as The Fraternity which has come down from its inception 1000 years ago. Comprised of weavers cum assassins, they are devoted to the elimination of evil by methods perfected through the centuries.

But, before we get further into that, we're treated to the dismal life of one Wesley Gibson, a Chicago accountant who seems to be everyone's idea of a punching bag. His best pal Barry (Chris Pratt) is screwing his live-in girlfriend Cathy (Kristen Hager) and his office manager Janice (Lorna Scott) ridicules him publically at every opportunity. His entire bank balance is in three figures. His favorite words are, "I'm sorry," which he utters at the drop of an insult. When he googles his name the search engine delivers zero hits.

He dreams of something better and, in one, he sees a sequence of incredibly performed assassination. What he doesn't realize right away is that this is a preview of his future. It begins when he's kidnapped by gorgeous assassinatrix Fox (Angelina Jolie) and brought to the gothic brick textile compound and to its leader Sloan (Morgan Freeman). He's told that somewhere in his DNA lies powers beyond his dreams, that he's the son of the best killer the cabal has ever had, now dead. If he can be trained to use his powers he would be the only man who could take revenge on his father's assassin Cross (Thomas Ketschmann).

Sloan puts a gun in Wesley's hands, causing the accountant to sweat. Flies buzz in a refuse bin. Sloan tells Wesley that he has the skill to shoot the wings off the flies. When Wesley builds up the courage to fire the gun the transformation begins. The flies live, but fly no more.

Wesley is inducted into the secrets of the society and undergoes extreme training by such members as The Repairman (Mark Warren), Gunsmith (Common), and The Butcher (Dato Bakhtadze). All, under the watchful eyes of Fox and Sloan. Their future depends on what they can bring out of the forlorn accountant.

As the process goes on and Wesley discovers his hidden powers, Sloan fills him in on how things work in the organization. A final tour ends up in a room that houses a huge loom that weaves a special cloth. Studied under a microscope, the weave produces a secret binary code for a name--of someone who must be killed. This is the contract not of some human mind, but of fate.

The choice of McAvoy for this role certainly plays well for the nebbishy side of his character; not so well for the superhero he becomes. A noteworthy actor for his acumen in "The Last King of Scotland" and romantic sensitivity in "Atonement," he makes the most of his injection into the action hero pantheon. But he's no Will Smith.

Jolie, one of the most observed actresses on the planet, generates great interest in whatever she does. Here, she uses her sexual and athletic physicality for all they're worth, which works just fine in, by now, familiar pro killer territory ("Mr. and Mrs. Smith"). She masterfully maintains a tension with McAvoy as her trainee, visibly implying some kind of satisfaction of expectations down the line, but with more than that up her skimpy garments. All I can expose here, about that, is that there is a kiss (no great secret). It's a deep one, a real one, and it's studied in great detail, including slow motion. Bekmambetov wastes no opportunity to arouse his audience.

Freeman, always classy, delivers a cold modulation of a man with control and power. Kretschmann is silently strong in a distant display of superhuman skill. Terence Stamp impresses in a brief appearance as Cross's dangerous enabler. The soundtrack, by award winning Danny Elfman, has all the dynamism called for. (See below)

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Working from a screenplay by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas who also collaborated on the screenplay of "3:10 to Yuma," this director's pacing, staging and CG work stun the senses with huge servings of energy, as they're intended to do. The train over the bridge sequence exemplifies a scale of action, power and pure energy excess. The result is a weirdly noirish world of death and destruction existing on the edges of the real one--not unlike the vampire kingdom the director knows well and one that citizens like you and me never suspect.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  



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James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie
A collaboration of assassins.

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