VOD film review: Gemini Man
James R | On 01, Mar 2020
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Will Smith, Clive Owen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Benedict Wong
What’s the one thing better than Will Smith? Two Will Smiths. It’s hard to fault the logic behind Gemini Man, but end result ends up as flimsy as a horoscope.
Smith plays Brogan, a special forces hitman with an eye for a killer shot and the lack of personal attachments to go with it. But one day, he finds himself the target of a strangely familiar assassin: what appears to be the younger version of himself. That would be the Gemini project of the title, which is connected to Brogan’s sinister boss, Varris (Clive Owen).
What is the project’s purpose? Is Brogan about to be retired? Is “Junior” a clone? What if there are more? And what does it mean to effectively kill a younger (or older) version of yourself? There are all kinds of intriguing questions raised by the central premise, but the film squanders almost every single one. Instead, the script – written and rewritten by a combination of David Benioff, Billy Ray and Darren Lemke – unravels a predictable conspiracy with workmanlike levels of excitement.
Ang Lee directs with an eye for a decent set piece and there are some genuinely impressive confrontations, particularly one darkly lit showdown between Smith 1 and Smith 2 in a tunnel. Explosions, rooftop sequences and more are on offer and served up with some panache – especially if you’re not watching in the high frame rate he used to record it all in, which led to reports of home movie-like images in specially-equipped cinemas. (On a TV in 4K, the visuals are often stunning.)
But there’s no substance to go with that style, and when you’re not engaged with the people throwing the punches – and when things are being played so heavy and humourless – a sense of fun is hard to come by. The other characters, in particular, don’t get much screen time, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead plucky but wasted as agent sidekick Danny and Benedict Wong underused as Brogan’s long-time buddy Baron. Clive Owen, too, deserves more to do than sneer at everyone else.
The Smiths do bring a surprising amount of heartfelt intimacy to their exchanges, but they’re hamstrung by the technology used to de-age the already age-proof actor – while the effect is (unintentionally but) suitably uncanny during the fight scenes, it can’t hold up to scrutiny during the later moments when the pace slows for some face-to-face emoting. The project has been in the pipeline for years passing from filmmaker to filmmaker. If the producers deemed the technology to have finally caught up with the concept, Ang Lee’s horoscope should’ve told him to hold on for a few more years. Two Will Smiths are a tantalising prospect, but they mostly make Gemini Man a doubly missed opportunity.