Dir:Doug Liman. US. 2005. 120mins.

Mr & Mrs Smith is a sleek, audacious mix ofromantic comedy, satire and action thriller boosted by the surging star powerof Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. And making the most of that 'Brangelina'appeal - the couple's alleged off-screen affair is currently the talk of thetabloids - may be crucial if producer and financier Regency Enterprises is toget the returns it hopes for from what, with a reported budget of more than $100m,is its biggest project to date. Because while the film itself, directed by thetalented Doug Liman, works intermittently, it is never quite as funny nor assexy as it wants to be.

Thefree tabloid publicity will be a big help when Regency's distributor Fox opens Mr& Mrs Smith this weekend (June 10) in the US, UK, Australia, LatinAmerica, most of Asia and many smaller territories. Fox should be able to scorea big US opening thanks to the interest of younger moviegoers with theirfingers on the pop culture pulse. Pulling in more mainstream audiences in laterweeks - as competitors such as Batman Begins and Bewitched arriveon the domestic scene - could be more of a challenge.

Thestar names will be an even stronger draw internationally - Pitt and Jolie areboth coming off movies that were much bigger hits internationally than in theUS - as will the film's exciting action. Fox can expect large numbers from theday-and-date launches; and openings later in the summer (many through Fox, ahandful through independents that have bought the film from Regency) incontinental Europe and Japan should also be lucrative.

Indemand screenwriter Simon Kinberg (XXX: State Of The Union, FantasticFour and next year's X-Men 3) wrote the script, whose whoppingcentral conceit is that John (Pitt) and Jane (Jolie) Smith have been marriedfor five years without revealing to each other their careers as highlysuccessful assassins-for-hire. Pretending to be average New York commuters,John and Jane venture out to complete their deadly assignments and then returnto suburbia to resume a married life that began with steamy romance but hassince turned into joyless routine.

Theconceit is heavily laboured during the film's first act and only after 40minutes do John and Jane catch on to the truth. Their first response is to tryand kill each other to preserve their careers. That proving easier said thandone, the plot then has the married killers teaming up against a common outsidethreat - and in the process re-igniting their romance.

Liman,who most recently turned The Bourne Identity into a surprise franchisestarter, gives the film a cocky, tongue-in-cheek attitude that makes it feellike a Tracy-Hepburn rom-com with large doses of Prizzi's Honor-styleblack humour and Mission: Impossible-style action thrown in.

Accessorisedwith designer clothes and cool weapons, Pitt and Jolie both look fabulous. Nottoo much real acting is required, but the stars keep things diverting bydelivering plenty of smouldering looks and punning one-liners. Curiously,though, there's virtually no on-screen sex (the rating is PG-13 in the US) andnot much on-screen chemistry.

Neitheractor shows a real knack for the kind of sly comedy that Liman seems to beafter, though Pitt manages to amuse with the mildly self-deprecating manner heused to great box office effect in Oceans 11 and 12.

Thefilm's other elements are nicely presented even if they don't come together asa really entertaining whole. The relationship between John and Jane - who wefirst meet struggling through a marriage therapy session - is presented as akind of love/hate tango, an impression that's accentuated by the film'sLatin-influenced music score.

Theaction is deliberately far-fetched but viscerally effective (as it was in TheBourne Identity). One of the highlights is a showdown between John and Janein the couple's tastefully appointed home that starts with guns, turns into abrutal fist fight and winds up with sex.

New Regency
Summit Entertainment
Weed Road Pictures

20th Century Fox

Summit Entertainment

Erik Feig

Arnon Milchan
Akiva Goldsman
Lucas Foster
Patrick Wachsberger
Eric McLeod

Simon Kinberg

Bojan Bazelli

Jeff Mann

Michael Tronick

Michael Kaplan

John Powell

Brad Pitt
Angelina Jolie
Adam Brody
Kerry Washington
Vince Vaughn