Will Smith can do almost anything on screen.
Now, you can add “look a few decades younger” to his tool kit.
“Gemini Man” stars Will Smith … and Will Smith as a sniper and his much younger clone. The CGI wizardry making that possible is good enough to push the story in play across without distractions.
Only the story isn’t worth the bother. The screenplay kicked around Hollywood for years before director Ang Lee dusted it off for our consideration. He should have left it there where it rightly belongs.
Smith stars as Henry Brogan, a government sniper without peer. Already we’re wallowing in one of the spy game’s hoariest cliches.
“Why, nobody does it better than [insert your protagonist’s name]!”
We’ll forgive James Bond for that old saw. Not Henry.
Smith’s character may be the “best,” but he’s having trouble living with his resume. Killing stains the soul, even when you’re taking out the human trash.
Only the big “G” government, that’s the evil kind that does a screenwriter’s bidding, won’t let him retire in peace. And they’ve got a plan to take him out using his own DNA to get ‘er done.
Enter Junior (a de-aged Smith). And yes, that’s his name in the movie. Junior sprang to life courtesy of the villainous Clay Verris (a slumming Clive Owen), who thinks he’s made a younger, faster Henry Brogan.
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The old Henry won’t go out without a fight, though. And that’s where “Gemini Man” briefly quickens our pulse. The film’s signature set piece, a frantic motorcycle chase, is a stunning blast of action choreography. Lee puts us right behind Smith’s character, zooming across the landscape as if we were sitting on the motorcycle ourselves.
It’s brilliant, but it can only sustain our interest for so long. Soon, we’re back with Henry trying to outrun himself. It’s a crackerjack set up for a B-movie romp, think “Face/Off” as a prime example. Only “Gemini Man,” under Lee’s tutelage, has delusions of mediocrity.
Smith vs. Smith. Genre movie vs. Thoughtful Cinema. The latter just doesn’t work.
The film’s de-aging process will grab your attention, but co-star Mary Elizabeth Winstead does it the old fashioned way. She’s playing an agent dragged into Henry’s life or death struggle, and she exudes a confidence that immediately intrigues us.
She’s not a warrior in the Mary Sue mold, either. She’s real, or as real as an action movie can deliver. The screenplay can’t take full advantage of her presence, but she’s good enough to carry otherwise sub-standard moments.
— Gemini Man (@GeminiManMovie) October 1, 2019
Other fine actors are wasted, including “Avengers: Endgame” standout Benedict Wong. He’s the rascally sidekick who gets whatever our hero needs -- a plane, or hideout, etc. That’s all he’s given to do though, and that’s a shame.
So why are Lee and Smith teaming up for “Gemini Man” in the first place? Lee remains an audacious filmmaker, and Smith has more charisma than a dozen of his acting chums.
Together, they’re going through the blockbuster motions. A few lines of dialogue crackle, but most is of the paint-by-numbers variety. And the film ends with the sort of silly/gooey laughs that sound nothing like the existential banter heard minutes earlier.
HiT or Miss: “Gemini Man” rises above its genre roots a time or two, but it’s never consistent enough to fully recommend it.