Gemini Man

Movie Information

A cliched, dated and hokey actioner that's held together by the thread of a new special effects technique.
Genre: Sci-fi/Action
Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen
Rated: PG-13

I’m fine with innovative special effects techniques being used to enhance a story, but when they’re used as a replacement for the story, there are bound to be issues. Such is the case with Ang Lee’s Gemini Man. The film supposes that if we’re given enough Fresh Prince-era Will Smith (via a newfangled FX treatment that makes aging actors look like their younger selves), we’ll forget that the work still needs a plausible plot and at least mild coherency. The gamble doesn’t pay off, which should come as no surprise.

Based on a 20-year-old (not to mention completely inaccurate) idea of how cloning works, Gemini Man makes a lot of technical assumptions about the application of the controversial procedure. I’m no expert on genetic manipulation, but I’m pretty sure traits like sharpshooting aren’t passed down through DNA. Turns out, the concept for Gemini Man has been kicking around Hollywood since 1997 — one year after scientists famously cloned a sheep named Dolly. And if you can clone a sheep, why not the world’s most dangerous assassin, right? Truth is, Gemini Man may have worked 20 years ago, but in 2019 its bad science is sorely clichéd.

Famous medical breakthroughs and poor scientific understanding aside, the film’s plotting (which finds Smith’s younger self attempting to kill his 51-year-old original version), dialogue and humor also seriously need updating. Gemini Man hits so many beats and tropes found in a late-’80s/’90s action flicks that if you were to close your eyes, you might just travel back in time. For some viewers, the hyperfamiliarity may be a positive — and if it is, by all means, don’t let me stop you from enjoying yourself. However, I expect more, especially from Lee (Life of Pi; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). With a small amount of self-awareness, the ’90s throwback approach could have been highly entertaining, but Gemini Man offers no such introspection. It’s a shame, too, because Lee is the kind of director who could have pulled it off.

The first half of the film is an awkward mess that’s borderline atrocious. The second half picks up some steam but not nearly enough to salvage anything decent. When both Smiths are standing still, the deaging technique works eerily well, but it all goes to hell with the increased frame rate in the action sequences that makes everything look like a cross between a soap opera and a video game. Still, the fight in the catacombs is fun, and the chemistry is decent. Mary Elizabeth Winstead does her job with no complaints, and Benedict Wong supplied the only chuckle the film got out of me. Plus, Clive Owen’s villain might as well be wringing his hands and twirling a mustache — a definite positive, considering all the negatives.

About James Rosario
James is a writer, record collector, wrestling nerd, and tabletop gamer living with his family in Asheville, North Carolina. He is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and contributes to The Daily Orca, Razorcake Magazine, and Mountain Xpress.

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