Movie Review: Gemini Man9th December 2019
If you’d have thought Gemini Man would’ve released to anything more than an entirely lukewarm response, you’re living in a dreamworld. Judging by the lack of energy that went into Ang Lee’s latest directing vision, I was surprised to see how completely mediocre it was. Not because I was expecting anything better, but because I was expecting a whole lot worse than the final product. Throwing the premise out there of “what would happen if Will Smith was tasked with killing himself”, Gemini Man is another action blockbuster that highlights how the genre is so deep rooted in its similarities that it’ll never change no matter how desperate it is for some new energy in its tired old formula.
Implementing Will Smith in two roles when he barely has enough talent to fill one is certainly a new take on an otherwise impoverished and seemingly dull genre. I’m a sucker for action movies, so I was willing to let Gemini Man off with many of the mistakes it provides, but even I have my limits. Smith stars as Henry Brogen, a hitman at the top of his game that takes the decision to retire. Fed one loose end by a former colleague, Brogen finds himself at odds with the very government that had hired him for the past twenty years, and must fight to survive against a clone of himself.
That’s not exactly a spoiler, especially since the main (and, more or less, only) selling point of the movie was in fact that the ageing Prince of Bel-Air faced off against himself in a fight for survival. It seems the agency Brogen used to work for realised how good he was at making things blow up and shooting things until they stopped moving and decided that the best course of action was to clone him. Such a simple premise, one that can be played around with rather well though, so it’s a genuine surprise when they do nothing whatsoever with the concept. Nothing worthwhile that is, and I’d argue keeping Benedict Wong and Mary Elizabeth Winstead employed as something worthy for the film to do, but if they keep showing up in action films like this, I may have to rethink that comment.
My first experience with the direction of Ang Lee, the Academy Award winning director doesn’t have much of his own unique voice. Maybe that’s because there’s no real place for such commentary within a basic action film such as this, but he could’ve injected some life into the project had he really tried. His direction and the script he follows to the letter seem completely mismatched, diving around new characters that appear for only a handful of scenes to chug the plot along as best they can. For something so bland, it really surprises me how difficult a time Gemini Man has in bringing its characters together through a traditional narrative arc.
Perhaps the final nail in the coffin was the lack of development and screen time that Clive Owen receives, which really hinders his performance as the central villain. You’d think a man that hasn’t done anything memorable or interesting since 2006’s Children of Men would have more to offer after over a decade in the shadows, but it was not to be. He presides over only a handful of scenes, pretty much all of them dedicated to showing a bond between himself and the clone of Will Smith. It’s a lot harder to take this seriously when Will Smith’s CGI youthful look is clipping in and out of reality like a character from The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Owen phones in another performance, and to be honest I can’t blame him, the man has been given the short end of the stick time and time again, his defeatist attitude setting a prominent tone within the film.
It took three writers to craft the senile storytelling found within Gemini Man. I would list their names, but I have a hunch that you don’t care, don’t want to know which other projects they helmed for fear you may have accidentally enjoyed them, or both. Either way, their work on Gemini Man paints a picture that, no matter how little talent you have, you can get your script greenlit by some numbskull with enough money and some favours to call in on already established actors. A film that has “Netflix original” written all over it is no film at all.