GEMINI MAN

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Ang Lee

Stars: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong, Douglas Hodge, Ralph Brown, Linda Emond, E J Bonilla, Ilia Volok.

Will Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Gemini Man (2019)

Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is an aging government assassin who has retired from the profession after 72 kills. He has become disenchanted with the profession and the agency for which he works, especially after he learns that his final mission was a set up. His agency though is unsure of how far he can be trusted. They send someone to watch over him, in the form of DIA agent Danny Zakarweski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, from Swiss Army Man, etc). But then Brogan becomes the target of a gifted lethal assassin every bit as dangerous as he himself. The assassin turns out to be a clone of himself, created by Clay Verris (Clive Owen), a former friend turned billionaire scientist. Verris is trying to create an army of remorseless super soldiers. Junior is the prototype – he possesses all of Brogan’s lethal skills but has had all of Brogan’s flaws and any conscience removed from his genetic makeup. Verris has raised Junior as his own son and trained him in the arts of assassination and covert operations.

While trying to stay alive and outfight him, Henry tries to change Junior and convince him to leave behind this violent life and make the most of other less dangerous pursuits.

Oscar winning filmmaker Ang Lee is better known for his intelligent, character driven drama like Life Of Pi and Brokeback Mountain rather than formulaic, substandard generic action films like Gemini Man. As with Life Of Pi and the more recent Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk though, Lee is keen to push the boundaries of filmmaking and cutting-edge technology. Lee has shot the film in 3D and at a fast 120 fps to try and make in a more immersive experience. But, in this case, it seems like the emperor has no clothes and we are left with a fairly empty spectacle. The ambitious use of technology distracts from the formulaic nature of the material.

The generic script has been written by David Benioff (Game Of Thrones, etc), Darren Lemke (Shazam!) and Billy Ray (Captain Phillips, etc). Gemini Man was actually conceived nearly two decades ago but has been put in development hell until the technology caught up to make the story’s key hook more credible. Not surprisingly it all seems a bit dated. Using state of the art de-aging technology and motion capture technology enables Lee to have Smith face off against a younger digitally realised version of himself, from around his Fresh Prince days. But the younger version of Smith does at time seem a little unrealistic and artificial. The technology here is a far cry from the old split screen effect that was used in films like Franklin J Schaeffer’s 1967 Cold War thriller The Double Man which starred Yul Brynner in a dual role.

As he ably demonstrated with the superb martial arts action film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Lee is a proficient director of action. Gemini Man has been produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, so as is to be expected there are plenty of fights, well-choreographed physical action, with kinetically staged shootouts and chase sequences, but there is little here that we haven’t seen before in more worthy thrillers.

For some reason the action races through a number of exotic locations ranging from Hungary to Spain to Columbia and Georgia. Gemini Man has been nicely shot though by Oscar winning Australian cinematographer Dion Beebe (Memoirs Of A Geisha, etc) and the locations look spectacular. A fight in underground catacombs is quite claustrophobic.

Smith is another of those aging action heroes who has seen better days, and while he brings a certain physicality to the role his character lacks the charm he has brought to earlier roles. But the former A-lister now seems to be stuck in a series of box office duds, of which this ambitious special-effects heavy project is just the latest. The supporting cast do what they can with their stock characters. Winstead is stuck in a fairly thankless role, but she and Smith share a genuine chemistry. Owen plays the stereotypical villain of the piece, a role that doesn’t really stretch his talents.

★★★

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