Starring Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong. Directed by Ang Lee.
The story of the history of Gemini dates back to the late 90s, and is a classic case of every actor in Hollywood being attached, starting with Clint Eastwood and going through Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise and directors Tony Scott, Joe Carnahan and others. Now it comes to us, with the excuse for years that the technology wasn’t ready for it. But it might be something more story based.
Gemini Man follows retired hitman Henry Brogan as he is hunted by the agency that hired him and a younger clone of himself.
Ang Lee’s directorial history is incredibly varied, from the brilliant, to the terrible, and has pushed the boundaries in recent years of technology. He has rightfully won two Academy Awards for Best Director (the first Asian man to do so), but has also had his share of failures. Sadly, Gemini Man falls into this camp.
The choice is made by Lee to shoot the film in a Higher Frame Rate, and the result is a film that looks more like behind-the-scenes footage and worse acts to highlights the shortcomings of the visual effects.
The film marks his second time working in the higher frame rate after Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and his extensive use of groundbreaking visual effects are the same as he did in something like Life of Pi. But there’s no great storytelling here. Despite being a director of varied genres, there seems to be a void at the heart of Gemini Man.
The script is credited to three writers despite one hundred different writers having a stab at it for the past twenty years, and the dialogue is pretty risible. Despite starting life in the 90s it lacks any of the best 90s scripts, and seems to be suffering from thinking it’s a deeper show than it actually is.
Will Smith as Brogan and his younger clone Junior is perfectly fine, but the film wastes what could have been a great opportunity. Will Smith in Junior form is digitally de-aged to look like a Fresh Prince of Bel Air era Smith, and the opportunity for a Smith-Smith team up with older Smith playing the grumpy old hat vs a young hot shot Smith (like Men in Black) could have been a fun set up that in better hands could have turned the film into a fun spy thriller.
The rest of the cast are lumbered with poor writing also, Clive Owen gets nothing compelling to do as a villain, while the sidekick role for Mary Elizabeth Winstead is dull and uninspired. Only Benedict Wong decides to play the film for a couple of cheap laughs but sadly the whole thing is so self-serious it can’t be fun.
The action set pieces aren’t much to marvel at, a Home Alone style assault on Brogan’s house is done with quickly, the lengthy bike chase is too stop-and-start, and fistfight between Smith and Smith in a scary basement isn’t exciting either. The promise in the third act of a team-up between Smith, the young Smith and Winstead against an army of Smith clones who don’t feel pain could have been a fun beat ‘em up but once again the film doesn’t even have the stones to go for broke.
In the end, the visual effects that were held out for so many years aren’t much good, they don’t have the desired effect, the storytelling is rough and patchy and the action is so-so. Sadly, the film isn’t awful, it’s just fairly boring and wastes the potential it had.