Movie Review: Gemini Man
Rating: 1 Star
There’s a throwaway line by Benedict Wong’s character, Baron, that tells you everything you need to know about this movie. Baron is a pilot, who after flying a nice plane says something along the lines of, “like most of my encounters, it was short but sweet.”
That was the moment I could tell whoever was writing this disaster of a script was over it.
It’s a shame that Ang Lee’s name is tied to this movie. While I have never watched an Ang Lee film, his reputation precedes him. Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are his signature titles.
In my mind, something went very wrong in the production of this film. The script starts off like your atypical Bourne secret agent flick competing against a conspiratorial evil American government and then the film swiftly transitions into a story about inner demons and looking in a somewhat literal mirror. There is also a focus on familial responsibilities and the effects of avoiding or repressing those responsibilities.
These emotional touchpoints would be effective if they weren’t haphazardly shoehorned into a film that also wants to be a conspiratorial action thriller with boring characters who speak in cliches. For someone with a great history of telling captivating human stories revolving around relationships, sex, and love, it’s hard to imagine Ang Lee being happy with Gemini Man.
Plus, this is a waste of Will Smith as a leading man. Sure, Smith has had his misses over his career (happens to most if not all headlining Hollywood actors) but he’s an iconic action hero who can deliver on emotional and comedic tones. Gemini Man wanted to be an iconic action film that had heavy emotional and occasional comedic tones. It achieved none of this.
There are some moments of genuine opulence though. Lee is known for gorgeous cinematography and there are some beautiful scenes and sequences sprinkled in Gemini Man.
Smith plays Henry Brogan, a retiring super secret agent that can shoot a rapidly moving target from a looooong ways away. The suspension of disbelief starts early. But it’s Hollywood so I won’t harp on usual super secret spy agent tropes.
Henry is forced to go rogue as a friend of his lets him know that the man he killed was a scientist and not a terrorist. Whoops. Henry’s handlers attempt to kill him and he escapes with a damsel sent by his agency to track him, Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
Winstead’s character is pointless and feels written to stage a soulless and lifeless woman across from Smith so he can bounce mindless dialogue lines off her. Pointless, soulless, lifeless, and mindless describe a lot of what happens in Gemini Man.
This isn’t an indictment on Winstead as much as it isn’t an indictment of Will Smith. Benedict Wong is also shafted in a role of comedic relief and preposterously used as an emotional ploy long after the film lost my emotional investment.
Ok. So Henry and Danny join up with Baron who I mention at the top with his not so hilarious one-liner. Wong chauffeurs the two around as Henry ends up being attacked by his clone, Junior (Will Smith with computer-generated facial features to look younger).
Junior is ordered by evil militant government man Clay Verris (Clive Owen) to kill Henry. Clay also claims Junior as his son which is super weird. Junior hits Henry with a motorcycle in that scene you remember looking really dumb in the trailer. Junior and Henry fight a couple times until Junior realizes that Henry is his clone and that Clay has been lying to him. The two band together to go after Clay.
Gemini Man is easy to follow but that doesn’t make any of its story convincing or compelling. On the flip side, the film takes no chances and is generally camp and cringy.
To make matters worse, the movie is 20 minutes too long as the end drags on in a slapdash attempt to add suspense.
I hate to say it but Gemini Man has all the ingredients to craft a memorable action thriller that tells a unique human story. Will Smith is a great leading man for this role and Ang Lee is a great director. In another world, this movie is a character study of Henry Brogan as a representation of those who have lost the ability to love and value themselves. The clone becomes the mirror in which Henry has to overcome. I think that’s what somebody’s vision for this movie was and that tale never came through in the final product.
The writers are David Benioff and Darren Lemke for story and screenplay with Billy Ray also getting a screenplay credit. All these names are Hollywood veterans with wildly diverse backgrounds. Benioff is listed as one of the two creators of Game of Thrones, a popular tv show you may have heard of. Lemke has written family animated films like Shrek Forever After (yikes), Turbo, and both new Goosebumps movies. He also wrote Shazam which was well received. Ray has such credits as Captain Phillips, The Hunger Games, and Shattered Glass.
Would it be fair to lay the blame chiefly on the Gemini Man writing team? I’m not sure but it’d be hard to say they’re without fault considering how poorly written the film is. But there’s something deeply seeded and cynical about a film that’s painfully bad with talented people involved that I hate to cast any specific blame.
File Gemini Man under the category of, “failed conceptualization of what seemed like a good idea film”.