Current Issue #488

Film Review: Gemini Man

Rescued from ‘development hell’ by director Ang Lee, this dopey action epic features Will Smith pulling a double shift amidst humdrum fight scenes and the hoariest of hoary old clichés.

The actual story of the production is interesting and rather telling: originally dreamt up around 1997, the film was in various stages of production, rewrites and delays for ages, and might have been directed by everyone from Joe Carnahan to the late Tony Scott and  Curtis Hanson, and starred Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Sylvester Stallone, Sean Connery or even Nicolas Cage.

However, the digitally-assisted trickery needed to create the illusion of a clone (and no spoilers needed as this ‘twist’ is all over the posters and reviews) was always too expensive or complicated until recently, according to the reports, but it still looks weird and unnatural. In fact, the would-be revolutionary wizardry used to de-age Will and stick his face onto another actor looks pretty poor, all up, meaning that the middle-aged Smith appears to be fighting a plastic, body-snatcher version of The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.

Henry Brogan (Smith) is a government assassin introduced in the middle of a preposterous assignment in Belgium that almost goes wrong, meaning that he has a crisis of conscience and decides to retire (“Deep down, it’s like my soul is hurt,” he says in an especially lame bit of dialogue, considering that he’s killed something like 72 people). Henry sits around soul-searchingly for a while and then meets Danny Zakarweski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), whom he knows is another assassin on his tail. She soon decides to side with him instead, partly because he’s so handsome but perhaps also due to the fact that there’s no other woman character in the whole movie.

Henry is eventually targeted by Clay Varris (Clive Owen doing his chilly bastard routine) from a top-secret black ops unit named GEMINI, and their key killer turns out to be Jackson, Henry’s younger clone, resulting in lots of chases and bashings, none of which have any real impact, because they’re all rendered via FX and obviously feature two Smith stand-ins. There’s also supposed to be some sort of surprise involved in the revelation that Jackson is Henry’s clone, but we all know it anyway, and it’s hardly a fascinating turnaround given that science fiction, fantasy and horror pics are densely populated with duplicates and doppelgängers.

Director Lee, a long way from The Wedding Banquet, Sense And Sensibility, The Ice Storm and particularly Brokeback Mountain, does like to try different genres, and he has worked on big, action-adjacent films before with the ponderous Hulk and the sloppy spectacular Life Of Pi. However, this is even poorer than those flawed outings, with the ever-amiable Will made to seem dull and irritating. Quite a feat, really.

And he only gets in one good joke in the last few minutes – and yes, you can surely guess what it is. Double or nothing.

Gemini Man (M) is in cinemas now

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