Friday, February 02, 2024

Mr. & Mrs. Smith, on Prime

The most dangerous weapons these two agents wield are not guns or explosives. No, their whiny, neurotic personalities are far more lethal. Weaker people will yearn for the sweet release of death after a mere five minutes listening to them bicker and kvetch. Supposedly, this series is based on the 2005 Doug Liman film about super-spy assassins, who did not realize they were in the same business, but it is hard to tell from all the changes that were made. This time, the couple knowingly agrees to work undercover together and they might also leave the clandestine service together, feet first, in creators Donald Glover & Francesca Sloane’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith, which premieres today on Prime Video.

Perhaps you would hope two rookie agents would talk to a live person before killing people for their new agency, but not “John and Jane Smith.” Admittedly, Jane has sociopathic tendencies, so there’s that. Judging from the computer-automated interviews that dominate the first half of the initial episode, “First Date,” the Smiths were matched up because they both like pasta.

Obviously, those are not their real names. It is also clear there are other Smiths out there, like the ones in the prologue, whose fate suggests Smiths have a rather short shelf-life. Regardless, the new couple meshes reasonably okay. Initially, she thinks they should keep it strictly professional, but that caution will not last long.

The Smiths get three mission failures before its curtains for them. Unfortunately, they pick up a quick fail in episode two, “Second Date,” when they are ordered to abduct Eric Shane, a shady Epstein-like real estate tycoon, played by Johnn Turturro. In fact, several of the notable guest stars are the best thing about the Glover & Sloane take on
Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Turturo is both creepy and dryly mordant as Shane. Similarly, Ron Perlman terrific in both funny and sad ways, subverting his larger-than-life image. as Toby Hellinger, a broken-down former wheeler-dealer, whom the Smiths are supposed to “save.”

Probably, Wagner Moura and Parker Posey should have been the stars of the series, because they really liven things up in their two appearances as the “Other Smiths,” who offer the new Smiths some career advice after a chance encounter. The Other Smiths do not waste our time with navel-gazing or pseudo-hip jargon-laden banter, because life is too short, particularly for their targets.

If you thought the Pitt-Jolie movie needed more talky examination of gender-based relationship expectations and less action, than maybe this
Mr. & Mrs. Smith is for you. Everyone else will probably put their hands over their ears and start yelling “Shut up! Shut up!” They say the sign of good relationship is an ability to be silent together. Regrettably, the new Smiths never get there.

Fittingly, Perlman’s episode, “Do You Want Kids,” features the best action sequences of the series, wherein the Smiths drag the degenerate Hellinger huffing and wheezing his way through the picturesque towns surrounding Lake Como. Over the course of the series, there are a further three or four well-executed fight scenes interspersed amid the overwritten dialogue, but the talking never stops for long.

Of course, the concept might have worked better if the Smiths had better chemistry. Glover and Maya Erskine drum up some physical heat during their romantic scenes, but their personas are never credibly compatible. Individually, they have the charisma of laundry lint and together the ragingly insecure John and the cold game-playing Jane are just abrasively wrong together. It is impossible to root for the Smiths and since the nature of their agency and its missions are deliberately kept so vague, it is hard to take any satisfaction from their successes or failures.

The experience of watching this
Mr. & Mrs. Smith is much like being stuck in coach on an international flight behind an obnoxious couple that never stops arguing. It is maybe funny for a while to hear their brutally honest gripes, but it just gets embarrassing for everyone, especially the viewer. Not recommended, Mr. & Mrs. Smith starts streaming today (2/2) on Prime Video.