Review: Gemini Man

Gemini Man
5 10

PLOT: An aging government assassin (Will Smith) on the verge of retirement is hunted by a clone of his younger self.

REVIEW: GEMINI MAN has been around, in some form or another, since 1997. Originally set up as a Tony Scott vehicle, it’s fitting that it should reach screens via Jerry Bruckheimer Productions, with the two having had such a rich heyday together. Still, the finished product makes you wonder what beyond the concept of an aging star being hunted by his younger self ever made this so compelling for actors as varied as Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, and now Will Smith.

A two-dimensional action thriller, the film is only distinguished by the fact that it’s directed by Ang Lee - who’s not the guy you’d expect to see tackle a Jerry Bruckheimer film. His involvement seems to stem from his desire to push the boundaries of High Frame Rate technology, with this having been shot at an astounding 120 fps, up from the default 24 fps, and in 3D. Perversely, only a dozen or so theaters in North America will be able to screen the film that way, meaning most of us to have to make do with a conventional version (Paramount screened it for press here in MTL in 2D and 24 fps - strange as we have high frame rate screens). Watching it this way is like watching the colorized version of a black and white film, or the pan and scan version of a 2:35:1 widescreen film. We’re only getting a taste of what was intended.

This proves to be fatal, as GEMINI MAN doesn’t have enough substance to stand on its own. It’s little more than an excuse to string action scenes and money shots together, none of which look impressive conventionally. In fact, by downgrading to 24 fps, the film has a dark, ugly look that I’m sure is an insult to DP Dion Beebe’s intent. Strip away the eye candy and there’s almost nothing left, with long action scenes, such as when the younger Smith takes on the older one with motorcycle kung-fu, that look cartoonish and uninspired.

The other big attraction here is the fact that they used CGI to create a younger version of Will Smith, meaning he’s supposed to look like he stepped off the set of BAD BOYS. At times the CGI works, but often he looks like an uncanny valley CGI villain, meaning this isn’t as cutting edge as we hoped. At a rumored $138 million budget, GEMINI MAN is maybe too thrifty a production to showcase the technology, with Paramount not committing the bottomless reserves of cash Netflix did for THE IRISHMAN. In dark lighting, the younger Will Smith (dubbed Junior) looks kinda real, but some scenes, such as a tacked-on ending that seems like a hasty reshoot, do not look up to snuff.

Perhaps GEMINI MAN’s only real strength is Will Smith’s dual performance. He’s never anything less than committed here, playing Brogan as world-weary, but also possessing that spark we recognize as being a Will Smith trademark. As the younger Smith, he tries to recapture some of the energy he showed off on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, although he’s playing a far more reserved character. Smith fares well in both roles, as does Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the government agent pressed into helping the older Harry on his mission (a nice preview for her part in BIRDS OF PREY?).

Where the film utterly fails is in its villain, with Clive Owen contributing a hammy performance. Between this, OPHELIA and VALERIAN, it’s safe to say villainy is not Owen’s strong suit, at least not when the character is so thinly written. There was the potential to do something really interesting with him being a father-figure to the younger Smith, but this is dropped to just turn him into a conventional bad guy. It’s not that his performance is poor, but rather the fact that the material is so thin. It’s hard to believe “Game of Thrones” showrunner David Benioff had a hand in the writing.

Again, GEMINI MAN feels like little more than a demo reel for Lee’s beloved High Frame Rate, but if no one is going to see it that way what was the point? It feels like the film was specifically designed as a showpiece, but instead, it’s being exhibited as just another movie. Take the spectacle away from GEMINI MAN and you’re left with an action movie that’s barely up to snuff and a rare misfire for its director.

Source: JoBlo.com

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