Entertainment

Will Smith’s Gemini Man Review: An Unfortunate Critical and Commercial Bomb

The poor reception Will Smith's Gemini Man is getting is unfair. It's an enjoyable two hours that doesn't sacrifice character or performance for visual effects or style.

Critics review-bombed Gemini Man for some mysterious reason. After seeing it, I have no idea why. It wasn’t the quality of it or the performances. Ang Lee didn’t muck it up with unnecessary split screens or erotica. Maybe they were expecting a Mega Man movie based on one of the 8 Master Robots. Or maybe they thought it was a Deadshot solo movie and walked away confounded in both cases.

Story

Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is an elite assassin – so sort of Deadshot-y – about to retire. And he’s happy to make his last job it since he “didn’t feel the shot” and “got lucky.” To be sure, his old bosses hire an agent named Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to tail him as he finds out his last target was a Russian scientist, not a bioterrorist.

Intel that their op is blown reaches the top and Clay Verris (Clive Owen), head of covert operation Gemini, sends his most prized young operative after Brogan. This guy, who goes by Junior (also Smith), is so good he can follow Brogan’s every move. He even looks like him. That’s because Junior is his clone.

Hooking up with a contact, Baron (Benedict Wong), Henry and Danny have to dodge Junior’s rounds on multiple continents while they figure out why Henry had to take out the Russian and what it has to do with Junior and Gemini.

It sounds more complicated than it is. The plot is rather straightforward and the clone twist isn’t saved for later in the movie any more than the trailer. There is an additional twist to it kept for the end but you’ll see it coming.

Ang Lee

Hulk and Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee helms Gemini Man from a script by Billy Ray, Darren Lemke, and David Benioff. Benioff and Lemke wrote the story so it’s really not Ang Lee’s and it shows. Lee’s ownership of the film is so dulled, it looks like it could be a John Woo or Pang Brothers picture.

But, Lee’s restraint does Gemini Man a favor. We’re spared his flare that bothered fans when it came to Hulk and made Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon such an over-the-top fantasy. Gemini Man, in contrast, is what it needs to be: an action movie with heart and some intellect. Kind of like Shazam! without the camp, this film is more in the vein of the cerebral science fiction you can appreciate from Kubrick and Spielberg to Cronenberg and Dean Koontz for.

FX

Reportedly, one of the things that made Gemini Man so long in the making was the required visual effects to de-age Will Smith. Hollywood had these effects for years but it didn’t work on Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy. No, it would take Marvel and a few Captain America movies to get them right.

And Smith looks as good as his younger self as Robert Downey, Jr., did in Civil War. He also looks as good as Chris Evans with his face on a shorter frame. The only thing that ruins the effect is a mechanical-looking and sometimes out of sync mouth Smith has on his younger face.

The necessity of the effects is another question. Junior is 23 and Will Smith’s son Jaden will be 23 in a couple of years. Looking just like his dad, maybe they could’ve waited, let him play the part, and saved some money. That’s not really a gripe, just an observation

The Verdict

The poor reception Gemini Man is getting is unfair. Chinese studios produce it; that might have something to do with the backlash given current political turmoil. Regardless, it’s an enjoyable two hours that doesn’t sacrifice character or performance for visual effects or style. Joker did that better but Ang Lee brings his best and won’t bore you to death. It’s still playing with a boatload of showtimes; don’t be afraid to see it.

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