Review: Gemini Man

Will Smith is a household name. Whether you knew him first for his Fresh Prince music career or for his breakout role as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (or as 2019’s Genie if you grew up living under a rock), he has since remained one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. But it’s been a roller coaster ride for Will Smith movies the past seven years, during which time he has appeared as a supporting or main character in ten films. He rose to the box office heights in films like Suicide Squad, and Aladdin, but also plumbed the depths with the likes of Collateral Beauty and Winter’s Tale. But the style and charisma that he brings to his films are undeniable and stand out even in a lemon. We may still be waiting for another strong performance like Hitch or The Pursuit of Happyness, but he seemingly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and I have a good feeling we will get at least a few more great movies from this iconic actor. Unfortunately, Gemini Man was not one of those movies. I don’t recommend the film overall, but if you like Will Smith then you can decide if you’re going to catch it at Redbox or Netflix…don’t waste your time going to see this movie in theatres.
Henry Brogan (Smith) is a lifetime military man working with the government’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and known for his expertise with a sniper rifle. His 72 kills have made him the best there is but he’s reached a point where hitting his mark takes more luck than skill, so he’s ready for retirement. When he learns that he was fed falsified information about his last kill, Henry’s simply life turns upside down and his superiors want him “contained.” On the run, Henry is chased by not only the ghosts of his past, but by himself, as he discovers that the man sent to kill him is a younger and equally matched clone who almost knows his moves before he makes them. Facing his biggest threat yet, Henry must find a way to either out-maneuver himself or convince him that they have a common enemy.
Winning the Best Director Oscar for both Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi, Ang Lee is a director known for bringing in spectacular CGI scenes and intimate character perspectives to his films spanning almost 30 years. And while this film brings some of both to light, the movie is far from perfect. The CGI scenes felt more like his 2003 film Hulk at times with quick, blurred movements that don’t seem to represent the innovative artistic milestones reached over the past 16 years. It’s possible that this was as good as it gets when you have an actor fighting a digitally de-aged version of himself on screen…? The younger version of Will Smith, known as Junior, looked pretty good but also relied on obvious stunt doubles to make Smith’s aged movements look young and fresh. As for the characters themselves, there was some good emotional and relational depth written into each but the story got in the way and sharp turns ultimately left no room to explore any character well.
Clive Owen (King Arthur, Inside Man) plays Clay Veris, Henry’s old boss and the director of Gemini, a privatized para-military program that trains elite killers to be nothing more than cannon fodder and has figured out how to clone humans but for some reason only cloned one in the last 25 years. In addition to the unrecognized potential of their sci-fi agency, Clay raised Henry’s clone as his own son yet their could-be-intriguing family dynamics fall flat. Clay displays actual emotion for his son in addition to his pride of having a super-soldier, but conflicting scenes cut him down and I left wondering if his villain is complex or just really confusing. For most of the film, he was just another basic bad guy. Similarly, the other supporting characters Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, 10 Cloverfield Lane) and Baron (Benedict Wong, Doctor Strange) are both fantastic actors, but apart from helping Henry survive, their characters are awfully two dimensional and you could easily take them right out of the plot without changing much of the film.
There was a lot of story threads that I wish could have been explored further and I believe would have made quite a fascinating sci-fi action movie. I don’t know if fault falls to the fact that this film had three writer credits, but whatever happened it definitely didn’t come together well. They could have gone further with a focus on Henry not only fighting himself but teaching himself, Clay’s misunderstood love for his clone son, or even creating clones in order to save soldiers lives, but they left all loose threads on the table. The entire third act was a completely standard action movie with absolutely no halfway-decent resolution, especially in a film about human cloning. The only good thing about this movie was Will Smith. He brought heart as both a father figure trying desperately to save Junior from heading down the same path and also as a boy who was raised to kill learning and facing the truth about who he is.
There’s not much more to say about a forgettable Gemini Man, except that 51 never looked so good! With wasted story potential and flat characters, this film was ultimately doomed to fail. But the year isn’t finished yet and there is still a lot of hope in films yet to release! I’ll be going to see Dreamworks’ new animated film Abominable this weekend, one that looks just as heartwarming and fun as their beloved How to Train Your Dragon franchise, so look for a review of that film coming soon. And then next weekend brings three (count ’em!) movies that are near the top of my list for what’s left of 2019 in Zombieland: Double Tap, Jojo Rabbit, and The Lighthouse. A very eclectic group of films but nonetheless three that I have high hopes for. What are you looking forward to seeing? Let me know or leave a comment and thanks for reading, cheers!

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