Will Smith x 2, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Benedict Wong, Clive Owen, Linda Emond, Douglas Hodge
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…a visually stunning, sporadically awkward, slight bit of popcorn entertainment that will engage those forgiving of style over substance.
Actor Will Smith and director Ang Lee have both been in a bit of a professional slump lately. Smith, once a major superstar, has been saddled with decent parts in lesser films like Suicide Squad (2016) and Bright (2017), not to mention the recent divisive (albeit profitable) live action Aladdin (2019). Lee has had an even worse time of it, with his output post 2012’s Life of Pi consisting of the very poorly received Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016), a film that suffered from an uncomfortable trip to the uncanny valley and a mediocre script. What both of these talented individuals need is a new project that reminds everyone why we liked them in the first place, however it seems unlikely that Gemini Man will fulfill that duty.
Gemini Man introduces us to 51-year-old hitman, Henry Brogan (Will Smith), an affable chap who, after almost taking a hit, decides to hang up his guns and live the quiet life. Naturally this doesn’t thrill his employers and Henry soon finds himself hunted, initially by random goons but eventually by an operative who appears to know his every move before he makes it and who looks strikingly familiar…
The concept of Older Will Smith vs Younger Clone Will Smith is an engaging one, and the groundbreaking visual effects that have been used to create Junior (Will Smith + a shitload of CGI) are effective for the most part. Gemini Man also benefits from strong supporting roles by consistently-better-than-her-material Mary Elizabeth Winstead and the always delightful Benedict Wong. The problem here is the script in general, which ranges from middling to acceptable, but seems content to coast on the charm of the leads, consistently picking the least interesting conclusion to every set up.
What’s galling is that there’s some really good action scenes here, shot by Lee in 120fps they practically jump out of the screen and have an exciting immediacy that makes you wish more films would use this technology. The tech used to create Junior, however, is a little patchier, with younger Will looking great about 75% of the time, and then some truly immersion-breaking moments where it looks like he’s wandered out of a cutscene from Grand Theft Auto 10.
Ang Lee should be commended for attempting to integrate new technology into his filmmaking process, and it’s clearly something he’s passionate about. However, Gemini Man would have really benefited from incorporating that most elusive, low tech element: a solid script. Still, there’s fun to be had here, and the charming cast mesh well together, creating a visually stunning, sporadically awkward, slight bit of popcorn entertainment that will engage those forgiving of style over substance.