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Gemini Man (Will Smith) - Review

Gemini Man

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

AT HIS best, Ang Lee can be relied upon to deliver equal parts emotional investment and technological innovation (via films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Life of Pi). Yet he can also misfire with overly ambitious offerings such as his recent Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk or comic book offering Hulk.

Alas, Gemini Man – his latest – falls into the latter category. It boasts a high concept with plenty of potential, two Will Smiths for the price of one and cutting edge special effects. But its ‘technological advances’ are overly distracting, while the ideas at play are never fully explored because of some illogical plotting and banal dialogue.

The story focuses on government hitman Henry Brogan (Smith) as he decides to retire after sensing that his sniping skills are beginning to show signs of potential error. But days after making the decision, his most recent kill is called into question, prompting his former employers to place him on their own ‘kill list’.

Going on the run with DIA agent Danny Zakarweski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), he soon finds himself hunted down by Junior (Smith again), a younger clone of himself who has been raised by surrogate dad Clay Verris (Clive Owen), who views him as the potential perfect weapon.

But Brogan determines to try and help Junior, while turning the tables on Verris.

Based on a script that was co-written by David Benioff, Billy Ray and Darren Lemke, Gemini Man could – and should – have offered Lee the perfect showcase to combine his talents given the potential to explore the morality and ethics of cloning, as well as a former hit-man attempting to atone for past sins by ‘rescuing’ his younger self.

Unfortunately, the film never comes close to realising this potential. For starters, the script just isn’t up to much, often slipping into absurdist territory and struggling to overcome glaring lapses in logic in terms of basic storytelling. The actions of both Brogan and Junior consistently make little sense, while the science behind the cloning also fails to convince.

Owen’s one dimensional villain also feels too one-note, thereby making a last-ditch attempt to justify his actions seem tokenistic at best. But then the dialogue is often risible, with certain lines drawing unwitting guffaws from the audience I saw it with.

Smith does his best in both roles and actually emerges with the most credit. But he’s poorly served by the material, which seldom gives him the chance to really tap into the torment of both characters.

If the script is the main stumbling point, then Lee also has to take some of the blame too, as Gemini Man finds him a little too preoccupied with tinkering with technology. His decision to once again shoot at 120 frames per second rather than the standard 24, while also employing 3D+, is also distracting.

It’s too easy to find yourself assessing the merits [or not] of the new technology, rather than really becoming invested in the story, with the attention to detail eye-catching at certain points, but diverting once you start taking mental note of what doesn’t convince about it. The frame rate is particularly unconvincing at certain points.

Lee, to be fair, is clearly attempting to heighten the excitement from the action sequences, and does manage to deliver one genuinely exhilarating motorcycle chase between the two Smiths. He almost puts you on the bike at one stage, inducing some headrush-style sensations.

But a later night-time fight between the two Smiths is very shaky and confused, while the drawn out climax adds extra strain to the film’s already flimsy credibility and misses the mark completely with a final ‘big reveal’. By that time, you’re willing things to end.

Lee and Smith are both capable of so much better.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 1hr 57mins
UK Release Date: October 10, 2019