Directed by: Ang Lee
Written by: David Benioff, Billy Ray & Darren Lemke
Starring: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen & Benedict Wong
Rating: PG-13 (for violence and action throughout, and brief strong language)
Runtime: 1 hr. 56 min.
Release date: Oct. 11, 2019 (Wide)
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Sci-fi, Fantasy
Gemini Man (or as I’m calling it A Tale of Two Smithies) is best surmised meta-contextually. On its surface it’s a film about a hitman (Will Smith) who’s being hunted by his younger clone (also Will Smith). On a more philosophical level, it’s about a man who emotionally, mentally and now physically cannot escape his past. Critically speaking, Gemini Man can’t shake its identity as a clone of the type of action flick we saw so many of in the 1990s, beginning with its title, which suggests a sci-fi bent; its lazy poster design; the predictable twists and cheesy dialogue. It even stars an aging action star, a la Hard Target, Time Cop or Armageddon.
I’m not dissing Will Smith. He’s one of the most magnetic and charismatic performers working today. Not coincidentally, he’s also the best thing about Gemini Man. He elicits what sympathy he can for both his roles: Henry Brogan, damaged goods looking to put his history as a professional killer behind him and Junior, Henry’s 20-something-year-old clone who’s sent to kill him. Smith is predictably great as both characters and without him Gemini Man would not warrant the recommendation I am ultimately giving it.
Smith is so good in fact that it will be easy for many to overlook Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Danny. She’s the obligatory rookie who Henry pulls from the jaws of death at the last minute during the obligatory burnout that doesn’t go exactly to plan because the higher-ups at the obligatory intelligence agency underestimated their own aging agent who’s predictably on the brink of retirement. She shares an easygoing chemistry with Smith and I enjoyed when the two were together, even if I was frequently rolling my eyes at what they had to say.
Clive Owen also makes the occasional appearance as Clay Verris, the obligatory bad guy with the obligatory privatized army at his disposal who shares an obligatory connection to Henry and walks around scowling menacingly while delivering obligatory bad guy lines. You can guess what happens to him.
You can’t talk about Gemini Man without talking about its multi-Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, The Life of Pi). Lee has always been am ambitious filmmaker; sadly, he may have bitten off more than he can chew this time around as no theater in North America will be showing Gemini Man as intended, in its 120 frames-per-second high frame rate 4K 3D format. What’s worse is only 14 theaters in the country will be able to screen something even close to that, in 3D with 120fps high frame rate, but no 4K.
That said, the digital effects employed to de-age Will Smith as Junior is mostly excellent. However, those effects grow increasingly poor the longer the film ticks on, eventually resembling more a video game than a big blockbuster film. It culminates with a final scene that features a disturbingly unrealistic rendering of young Will Smith.
Finally, what is a 90’s action movie without the action? Fortunately, Gemini Man delivers. While the script bounces around from one generic beat to the next, between we’re treated to a handful of exciting and memorable set pieces. Combine them with the star-power on display and Gemini Man suddenly becomes a serviceable diversion.
Those are my thoughts on Gemini Man. Have you had a chance yet to check out the film? Do you even plan on it? Jump down to the comments below and let me know because I want to hear from you!