Right after an all too familiar opening action sequence, it becomes quite clear what audiences are in for. Yes, you’re seeing a Will Smith action thriller, but it feels like an action movie straight out of the nineties (complete with the Jerry Bruckheimer production logo before the movie starts). That can be a good thing, and we’ve seen positive examples of that in recent years. But if you have a ho-hum story and laughable dialogue, then no amount of action sequences can save your mundane movie, Gemini Man. A combination of Will Smith and director Ang Lee not only makes for a decent chance for a winning formula, but also a comeback formula here given that both big Hollywood names are due for redemption given their recent track records. But alas, Gemini Man is not that comeback.
Henry Brogan is an elite assassin who becomes the target of a mysterious operative who can seemingly predict his every move. To his horror, he soon learns that the man who’s trying to kill him is a younger, faster, cloned version of himself.
Not only can the story of Gemini Man be seen from a mile away, but it also makes no effort at delivering anything more than the story of making a person out of another person (I still cannot get over this line from the marketing and trailers). No twists, thrills, or real stakes other than the life of a retiring assassin and his friends. Not only that, but then you start to understand why the movie’s antagonist (played by Clive Owen) is doing what he’s doing. And surprisingly, his motives, revealed later, actually seem plausible! Credit the writers of Gemini Man for at least bringing us an interesting perspective that people could actually get on board with. Also, Gemini Man’s effort at being a globe-trotting movie doesn’t make any sense by the time the movie reaches its climax. The back and forth from Georgia to overseas to “meet” or face-off” against people of interest could have been simplified by having it all take place in one area. But hey, whatever works for Ang Lee and Paramount (a studio in desperate need of a hit that’s not named A Quiet Place or Mission: Impossible sequel).
Will Smith puts in the effort as the main two leading characters in Gemini Man–the assassin ready to retire (Henry Brogan) and the deaged clone (named Junior) sent to kill Henry Brogan. Given what Smith has to work with from the script, he delivers respectable performances in both versions of his character, especially to his deaged version of the character that feels believable (if you discount one scene in the final act, that is). While he’s not given much in terms of charm or much of a script to provide any levity to the dual roles, I do like seeing Smith trying material like this and other roles he’s done in recent years (even if most of them have not been good). Mary Elizabeth Winstead briefly kicks ass as an agent assisting Smith’s Henry Brogan character, and she needs more roles like this. (We won’t have to wait long, however, as she’ll play a central character in DC Comics’ Birds of Prey.) Other characters played by Benedict Wong and Clive Owen are serviceable, but nothing more, in this Will Smith-led movie.
Much has been made about the movie’s high frame rate, thanks to the request of Ang Lee (first tried in his last movie Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk). However, our screening was not presented in the high frame rate, but I’m not sure it would have made any difference here in terms of upping the ante visually. As for the deaging of Smith’s younger self in the movie, it’s mostly spot-on, minus one scene that stands out from the get-go. The movie’s action sequences are hit-and-miss. Some hit their mark when the action is up close. Others come off as something out of a video game where the budget for visuals feels constrained.
Will Smith and Ang Lee have put their stamps on Hollywood time after time in years past, but this feels more like an exercise in what not to do in an age where Hollywood is adjusting in various areas, formats, and genres. While Gemini Man had the opportunity to buck the current trends and go against the flow in a good way, it has nothing to add and, more importantly, can’t muster up enough entertainment to be worth your time or money. Fifteen minutes into the movie, a colleague sitting next to me leaned over and whispered, “They should’ve called this The Boring Supremacy.” And after sitting through this nearly two hour “action thriller,” I couldn’t agree more.