Gemini Man (2019) Review
DOUBLE TROUBLE MEDIOCRITY
Film director Ang Lee has certainly made a name for himself in Hollywood as a visual storyteller within his various projects. While he had previous helmed theatrical features, Lee’s certainly made his “big splash” (in Hollywood) with the release of 1995’s Sense and Sensibility, which he received critical praise in adapting Jane Austen’s tale to the silver screen. After that, Lee went on to produce other films within a wide range of genres, including the 1997 drama Ice Storm, the 2000 martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the 2003 superhero movie Hulk, the 2005 romantic drama Brokeback Mountain, and the 2012 visual magic survival film Life of Pi. Now, Paramount Pictures and director Ang Lee releases the latest film in Lee’s catalogue with the sci-fi drama movie Gemini Man. Does the film find its entertaining rhythm or does it flounder within its “double trouble” premise?
Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is a seasoned government assassin, cultivating over 72 kills during his esteemed career, making him one of the deadliest agents around. However, the years are starting to catch up to veteran, who’s 50-year-old and looking at his retirement, trying to slip out of sight and find solace with the simple life. Unfortunately, the government isn’t going to allow his freedom so lightly, trying to take out Henry and his friend, Jack (Douglas Hodge), who’s killed while attempting to warn his pal about incoming threats. Taking off for safety, Henry unexpectedly forms a bond with Dani Zakarweski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a fellow agent whose eyes have been opened to the murderous agenda that their government can exercise without remorse, and is joined by old ally friend Baron (Benedict Wong) as they attempt to understand who’s behind the original order. Henry crosses path with Junior (Will Smith), a younger clone of Henry, who’s been trained at the black ops organization known as GEMINI, becoming a top assassin with new orders from its head man Clay Varris (Clive Owen) to seek and destroy Henry.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
As I mentioned above, Ang Lee is certainly made a director’s name for himself. Sure, he isn’t reached a famed legendary as Stephen Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, and Francis Ford Coppola, but Lee has certainly cultivated a reputation and accolades within his feature releases. Of course, I personally liked Sense and Sensibility as perhaps my favorite one of his, with Life of Pi being my second favorite. On the other hand, I think some of his movie didn’t leave up to their own hype…. like Hulk and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk; both of which could’ve been much better. Still, despite a few misfires, Lee has a talent for cinematic storytelling with nuances of visual flairs and engaging narratives.
Of course, the brings me back to talking about Lee’s latest film Gemini Man. To be quite honest, I really didn’t hear much about this movie when it was first announced. Personally, I wasn’t even aware of the movie until the film’s movie trailers were released, which certainly did highlight the movie’s story as well as the whole sci-fi “double trouble” of Will Smith’s character. Like what a good movie trailer is supposed to do, it definitely got me interested in seeing the movie as it looked poised to be a solid sci-fi action movie endeavor. So, I went to see Gemini Man a few weeks after its theatrical release and to see if the movie’s hype / appeal was worth it. Well….was it? Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Despite an interesting concept and solid performance from Will Smith, Gemini Man adequately meanders its way through a bland storytelling narrative. There are some interesting ideas that the movie toils with, but majority of the film is just bland and mediocre.
As I mentioned, Gemini Man is directed Ang Lee and he certainly plays with some ambitious ideas, which the famed director is customary to interjecting within his feature films. The movie delves into the psyche minds of both Henry and Junior (Henry’s younger cloned version of himself); creating a interesting take on the “double trouble” aspect that’s mingled with ambiguity and doubt. Additionally, there are a few action sequences (most notable in the first and second act) that are well-staged and do create some entertaining pieces that actually do work.
In its presentation category, Gemini Man looks pretty good and is definitely “on par” with the movie industry standards. What definitely stands out in the movie are the movie’s various set-pieces and locations, which sort of felt like a Jason Bourne motifs of various European motifs and locales. Everything else within the standards categories that I mentioned (set decorations, costumes, cinematography) are all fine, but none of them stand out of being noteworthy. Additionally, the movie’s score, which was done by Lorne Balfe, composed a solid musical composition for the movie, with plenty of melodic flourishes that work with the film’s various scenes of action intensity and slow / somber character moments.
Unfortunately, Gemini Man doesn’t live up to its own inherit hype and immediately beings to flounder within the feature’s first act. What went wrong? Well, perhaps the film’s biggest problem is that the movie doesn’t really go anywhere. Yes, the movie certainly does have a story to tell, but it’s not exactly the most original nor the most creatively done. To be honest, the film’s narrative lacks that “cinematic punch” that I was expecting it to be…. or at least as what the movie trailers projected, which I know can be very misleading sometimes. That being said, Lee never really makes the movie its own thing; picking up bits and piece from other similar movies out there of the per usual action genre of a veteran assassin that is framed by his government superiors (hunted and seeking justice for the shadowy establishment). It’s been done and redone before and Lee doesn’t make Gemini Man stand out, with little to none excitement or flourishes to the narrative being told. There’s just not enough of substance within the movie to make it stand out for similar narratives out there. Thus, Gemini Man (from start to finish) just feels derivate and completely bland; never fully engaging within its own story.
Of course, this stems from Lee’s direction of the cinematic material, which doesn’t offer much in the sci-fi realm (despite its premise of the cloning the main protagonist character within the GEMINI program) and comes off as a tepid science fiction action thriller, with little to no meat on the bone (if you know what I mean). Lee is definitely a talented director, but his approach to Gemini Man feels a little mundane and doesn’t really go anywhere. Additionally, the film’s pacing is a bit wonky. Sure, there are a few moments that work that certainly “fall in line” with Lee’s grand scheme for the feature, but majority of the movie feels sluggish with elongated sequences of dialogue talking scenes that don’t go anywhere. Speaking of dialogue, the film’s story / script, which was penned by David Benioff, Darren Lemke, and Billy Ray, seems quite flimsy that lacks substance in both narrative structures and character development. This action causes most of Gemini Man to be quite underwhelmed, with the story meandering through mostly tasteless appeal with so wooden dialogue bits. Even the feature’s action, which again does offer up some sequences of engaging thrills, is quite sparse throughout Gemini Man’s story. Heck, even the final climatic third act showdown seems like a watered-down sequences of better action movies out there. Of course, I wasn’t expecting something “balls to wall” bombastic action kicks like something from a Fast & the Furious franchise, but I was expecting something…well…. a bit more than what was presented. Plus, the movie’s visual effects of “de-aging” is a bit iffy on making Will Smith look younger. I know the whole “de-aging” of a actor / actress has been done before in other movies, but the utilization of it in Gemini Man is slightly off and wonky.
The cast in Gemini Man has plenty of recognizable faces for many of the main cast of characters. However, most of them pretty much fall flat due to the feature’s wooden / bland script. At the head of the pack is (of course) musician / actor Will Smith plays the movie’s central main protagonist character of Henry Brogan as well as his younger clone version of himself (aka Junior). Known for his roles in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Men in Black, and Bad Boys, Smith has definitely demonstrated to be a versatility actor that can project a range of comedic timing and dramatic action within his charismatic bravado and seasoned talents. Thus, it’s no surprise or shock that Smith excels in Gemini Man; bearing the brunt of the positive strength of the feature within his screen presence / portrayal of the movie’s two main characters; shaping Brogan to be a seasoned veteran who wants to escape his assassin life, while he makes Junior a conflicted individual who is caught between what is right and what is a lie. In short, Smith is perhaps on the absolute best thing about Gemini Man….hands down!
Looking beyond Smith’s dual performances, the movie finds several supporting characters that are made up from several recognizable acting talents, but, despite their screen presence, none of them really make their respective fun or memorable. Actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and 10 Cloverfield Lane) plays the character of Dani Zakarweski, a Navy veteran and DIA agent who gets entangled with Henry’s situation. While Winstead is a good actress, her portrayal of a character like Dani just comes off as a bit a weak. She doesn’t fit the role and ends up being an underdeveloped. Even some of the more humor-ish beats and some dramatic moments for her character comes off as uneven and unmemorable. Plus, the somewhat platonic relationship between Smith and Winstead’s characters is unremarkable, which doesn’t help believe in the Henry and Dani’s character performances. The same can almost be said for actor Clive Owens (King Arthur and Closer), who plays the film’s antagonist character of Clay Varris, the ruthless director of the GEMINI program. Owens certainly is a good actor and definitely gets the right “tone” for the villainy of Clay, but it just comes off as a bit vanilla and a very straight forward baddie. There’s just isn’t enough to make Owen’s performance memorable and Gemini Man’s script doesn’t allow for the seasoned actor to elaborate beyond a few minimal scenes. In short, the character of Clay Varris is just another generic / stock-like villain and nothing more.
The only one that I really did like was the character of Baron, Henry’s old marine friend who acts as a tour operator currently. Played by actor Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange and The Martian), the character is somewhat a cliché as the “old military buddy” to the protagonist character. Thus, there really isn’t much to the character of Baron. However, Wong elevates Baron with his screen presence, which makes the character slightly better than these collective supporting roles. With most of the movie focusing on these particular characters, the rest of the cast, including actor Illa Volok (Air Force One and Hunter Killer) as Russian operative / informant Yuri Kovacs, actor Ralph Brown (Wayne’s World 2 and TURN: Washington’s Spies) as Henry’s DIA handler Del Patterson, actor Douglas Hodge (Black Mirror and Red Sparrow) as Henry’s old Marine Corp colleague Jack Willis, and actress Linda Emond (Julie & Julia and The Big Sick) as the director of DIA Janet Lassiter, are delegated to minor supporting roles. Of course, their acting talents are fine, but none of these characters really come alive within their respective parts; acting as only “cogs in the machine” and coming across as unmemorable stock-like characters.
Who will save you from yourself as Henry Brogan soon discovers when he’s marked for death and hunted by cloned younger version of himself in the movie Gemini Man. Director Ang Lee’s latest film takes a more philosophical approach to the whole sci-fi premise; presenting a narrative that questions ambiguity and moral judgement, with actor Will Smith playing “double duty” in the movie’s lead roles. Unfortunately, despite Smith’s solid performances as both Henry Brogan and Junior as well as some spurts action set pieces, majority of the movie just comes off as mild and unoriginal sci-fi action feature, with heavily emphasis on the movie’s derivate story, script wooden dialogue, lackadaisical entertainment, uneven pacing, and unmemorable characters. Personally, this movie bland and just boring. Yes, I do love the concept idea premise and Smith did sell the feature (in both particular roles), but it all just felt completely derivate and vanilla from start to finish. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is a solid “skip it” as it really doesn’t really anything new to the whole clone / doppelganger sci-fi angle and just humdrums its way throughout the narrative….and not in a memorable way. In the end, while director Ang Lee is still a credible director and has a talent for some visual flair for cinematic storytelling, Gemini Man isn’t one of his finest projects, which only provides a Will Smith “double trouble” of movie mediocrity.
2.5 Out of 5 (Skip It)
Released On: October 11th, 2019
Reviewed On: October 26th, 2019
Gemini Man is 117 minutes and is rated PG-13 for violence and action throughout, and brief strong language