“Gemini Man”; Cast: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen; Direction: Ang Lee; Rating: ** and 1/2 (two and half stars)
The film begins with a promise. A snipper hits his mark aboard a silver-bullet train, from a distance of over two kilometres. For his razor-sharp precision, he is termed the best. Thereafter, the narrative spirals downwards.
In “Gemini Man”, Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is an elite, government assassin who is on the verge of retirement, when he suddenly finds himself pitted against a younger, equally agile and effective assassin who is out to eliminate him.
This conflict is nothing new in the assassin’s world. But being a sci-fic, action thriller, the younger assassin, who is named Junior, is a replica of the older Henry Brogan, secretly groomed to replace him.
Being a clone of Brogan, Junior is aware of Brogan’s every move. Following a trail of lies and deceit, Henry begins to uncover the truth behind the creation of his clone, all the while fighting a corrupt government and trying to salvage his clone’s humanity in a father-son fashion.
With a high concept and action-packed sequences, director Ang Lee’s film is arguably a significant leap forward for its visual effects but it slips notches down for its storytelling. Designed as a ’90s potboiler, the narrative is bland and far from gripping, and has generic action sequences.
The narrative lacks the substantive qualities that Lee is known for. Structurally, the film consists of the occasional action beat strung together by relenting expository dumps. There are moments of wow but these are outshined by unbelievable, predictable moments that make the film dreadfully dull and formulaic.
Unwittingly, the film is Will Smith’s canvas, playing an older and younger version of himself. As Henry Borgan he is acceptable, but with the de-aging process, as Junior, there appears to be some disconnect with the character. Thus, in spite of a lengthy on-screen time, Smith does not leave an impact. He delivers a perfunctory performance that can be highly ignored — a far cry from his act in “Alladin”.
He is aptly supported by Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Danny Zakarweski, the hitwoman and ally of Henry, who remains loyal to him after he is targeted for death. Clive Owen as Clayton “Clay” Varris, the ruthless head of the top-secret black-ops unit codenamed GEMINI, and Benedict Wong as Baron, his colleague who accompanies Henry and Danny in their quest, have their moments of glory but despite their best, they appear like stock characters in the tale.
The computer-generated images and effects are far from compelling. In fact they appear dodgy, especially in the action sequences on the Colombian Streets. The motorcycle chase and action sequence that follows, appear like an elaborate video-game.
Overall, the film boasts of top-rate production values and, on the face of it, has a naïve, almost moralistic quality, as if it has been stripped down to a fable for the benefit of its viewers.