Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Gemini Man: A Review


Once, Will Smith was one of the most beloved and bankable stars, one who could open a film no matter how awful it was (Wild Wild West being a prime example). A bad series of feature films (Seven Pounds, After Earth, Collateral Beauty) has weakened Smith's drawing power. With Gemini Man, someone figured why not get two Will Smiths for the price of one. The premise is a really good one, but the execution of it is so dull that it becomes too tedious to try finishing.

Master hitman Henry Brogman (Smith) has decided to finally retire after a lifetime of kills leave him alone, unloved and generally haunted. However, as it so happens a nefarious and shadowy group wants to retire Brogman permanently. Henry's instincts, however, are too well-tuned to not notice, so roping in the somewhat unwilling Agent Danielle "Danny" Zakarewski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and with some help from his friend Baron (Benedict Wong), Henry begins to hunt the hunters.

The big hunters are Clay Verris (Clive Owen) and Janet Lassiter (Linda Emond). The former wants to fully unleash "Gemini" but the latter is more reluctant until her hand is forced by Henry himself. An international chase through Budapest and Georgia commences, with the shocking discovery that "Gemini" refers to Junior, Henry's clone. More confrontations until the villains are taken down and new lives can start for others.

Image result for gemini manGemini Man is a terrible film because it wants us to care about people and things we don't know, haven't met and have no real view on. It is like watching the second season of a show without seeing the first and expect us to be able to follow what's going on. The film obviously wants us to think of "Janet Lassiter" and "Clay Verris" as these major antagonists but it is all so silly. We get the most cursory mention of their secret organization but why care about either? We don't see them as major antagonists for a variety of reasons.

One of them is that frankly the cast as a whole looks and acts almost dazed, probably stunned to find themselves in this production. Ang Lee, like fellow director Robert Zemekis, is too enamored of the technology that allows for Will Smith to fight a younger version of himself to care about anything else. He certainly didn't care about the actual acting in Gemini Man given how rote the line readings were from just about everyone.

The one possible exception is Owen, though it isn't a complement. Judging from his performance, Clive Owen figured Gemini Man was about his character and played it as such. Smith and Smith 2.0 look almost bored, Emond looks more confused and Winstead looks almost miserable. Wong is about the only person who looks slightly good and probably because he knew his "comic sidekick" character had something about his stock character he could play with. Even he however at times looked like he wanted to escape and run off to the newest Doctor Strange film.

In terms of acting no one shows a hint of emotion to where you wish anyone would overact and go over-the-top just to do something.

Image result for gemini man
Over and over the film asks us to care about people and things we know nothing about, and more bizarrely slips into pseudo-artistic farce. Early in the film, we see a "friend" of Henry's and said friend's mistress bumped off (because we knew they would be), and as her body floats ever-so-artistically in the water, we somehow transition to Henry's dream or memory of when he almost drowned. We're told he has a fear of water, but when he does come close to actually drowning in one "climatic" fight, he doesn't seem the worse for wear.

Despite the film's credits I think more than three people had a hand in the script, making things if not more muddled at least more dull. To be fair, the CGI that allows for a younger Smith to interact with his older self is not altogether horrible, but too often the CGI is horrible where you know it's fake, making the stakes feel lower than they already are.

At one point, Junior tells Verris (whom he believes is his adoptive father) that he feels a bit "wiggy", and I swear all I could think about was Will Smith "getting wiggy with it". Yes, I know it's "getting jiggy with it", but here you have to get your laughs where you find them. Gemini Man has an interesting premise with promise, but I'd say it was close to impossible to stay awake through such a dull slog of a film.

Gemini Man, if reworked slightly, would make for a great spoof of sci-fi action films. The only other laugh I had when I wasn't slipping into a coma while watching was when Verris describes the first botched assassination attempt. "It's like watching the Hindenburg crash into the Titanic," he growls.

Seems as apt a summary of Gemini Man as I can find.


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