Gemini Man
Director: Ang Lee
Writers: David Benioff, Billy Ray, Darren Lemke
Staring: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen
Release Date: October 11, 2019

Gemini Man follows Henry Brogan (Will Smith), a retiring assassin for hire. Considered the best of the best, Henry  finds himself being chanced by someone who matches his intellect and his skills. It is revealed that Henry is fighting a mirror of himself, literally. A younger cloned version of Henry has been put to the task of killing him and only be finding out why he is targeted and who is behind the contract can the true Henry ride off into the sunset.

Director Ang Lee teamed up with writers David Benioff, Billy Ray and Darren Lemke to tell this classic story of an over-the-hill hero having to fight his inner demons. This is a tenant of action movies, most recently done well in movies like Taken (2008), John Wick (2014), The Foreigner (2017). All those movies used the trope well, hitting all the right notes to make a magical action concerto. Gemini Man tries to incorporate the necessary story components with elevated special effects and action. Unfortunately, the movie misses the target and does not come close to the magic it strives for.

Right from the get-go, the most damaging aspect of Gemini Man is the script. The first speech that Henry gives to a government acquaintance is cheesy. The hammy over-produced lines do not stop there: other hammy spots include “It’s not gun time. It is coffee time” and a very cringy “you made a person, out of another person.” Will Smith is one the phone at one point and out of nowhere screams “What the hell is all this!?” and that line comes out with such fervor out of nowhere.

There are also incredibly over-the-top references ghosts, fatherhood, and the idea that someone’s imperfections make them a unique individual. There is no subtlety to it. The audience is treated as the nail and Clay Verris (Clive Owen) hammers the viewers with his overacting and machismo.

Verris is the father figure to Junior, the younger cloned version of Henry Brogan. They do have a father and son relationship, and it is one of tough love and expectations. His method of mentoring is to break junior down, then built him back up with a hug and “don’t forget what you are” mantra. Owen’s acting tone was entirely different from everyone else in the movie. He wanted to be in an old school Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger, but instead was trapped in an attempt of sleek espionage action storytelling.

The other supporting character in the movie is Danny Zakerewski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a government agent sent to monitor Henry but is quickly burned. The two form a friendship and ultimate trust over just a few hours of drinks. Really, it is unrealistic how quick it happens. Bonkers. Any who, Danny is allowed to shine for a few moments for with moments of badassery, but overall, she is just filler to the story. It is now two straight movies where Elizabeth Winstead has been minimized; Gemini Man and Birds Of Prey: And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn (2020). I want to see what she showcased in 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)!

Gemini Man’s script and pacing of the storytelling did not do the action in the movie any favors. While the action really does shine in its own unique way in spots, the story and pacing of the movie steer it off the tracks. There is no denying that the best part of the movie is when Henry and Junior first interact and go against one another in the colorful streets of Columbia. This is where Ang Lee shines brightest. The entire scene, culminating in the motorcycle chase at the end, is wonderful. Putting it plainly, it is fantastically done. There are POV shots from the motorcycles that submerse you in the world. It is the first time we get some action in the daylight, and the colors pop brightly. We get a bit of storytelling when Henry being able where Junior is going to suit himself on the roof. The motorcycle riding is exceptional and unique; it is hyper stylized and with the way Lee showcases Junior’s talents makes him formidable to our protagonist.

The meeting and acknowledgement of Henry and Junior’s connection comes quicker than expected, but the clone’s willingness to help out Henry come the final moments are teleported with all transparency. Junior helps Henry; they get attacked; Junior confronts Verris; leaves Verris to help Henry again; then must have one final crisis of consciousness before the movie’s final moment. It is all predictable rig-a-more-roll. The one thing with an action movie is that if you are going to be predictable, then you have to allow the movie’s star or tone take center stage. Gemini Man does not allow Will Smith to infuse his charisma into any version of his character, and the tones change so frequently that the audience is rag dolled.

When Gemini Man is focused on the action it is a more than tolerable watch. The motorcycle chase scene is remarkable and worth revisiting on YouTube for refreshing. The fight in the catacombs is alright before the Henry and Junior start having a heart-to-heart and the final sequence is bombastic and filled with artful slow motion and violence. Ang Lee does the best he can to put his directorial stamp on Gemini Man, and the visual splendor that appears on the screen for moments does draw the eye. The technology to mimic a younger Will Smith is impressive. Unfortunately, there needs to be a story injected amongst the fighting, and that is where things crumble. No emotional connections to any of the characters and no surprises to how the story unfolds.

STANKO RATING: D+ (2.0/5 Stars)

“Gemini Man” IMDB
“Gemini Man” Rotten Tomatoes

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