Gemini Man movie cast: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen
Gemini Man movie director: Ang Lee
Gemini Man movie rating: 2 stars
It took 22 years, Ang Lee and Will Smith for this film, first conceived in 1997, to see the light of day. One reason is that the central basis of it, Smith vs a younger Smith, would not have been possible without the “de-ageing” technology available now (to be next applied on Robert de Niro in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman). There are pluses and minuses in that sum, and the remainder is an uneven picture that tries too hard to be sombre when it could have a lot of fun. Gemini Man is also dragged down by the fact that elements which might have been novel two decades ago – from government-trained assassins who are now State targets, to secret experiments and off-the-books soldiers – are stale from overuse now.
That is a pity because Smith still remains a delight on screen. We meet him pulling off an impossible kill, from 2 km away, through the window of a racing train. But soon after, his Henry, a veteran of “72 kills”, decides his conscience is telling him to take a permanent break – predictably in a cottage located in the wilderness, besides a lake. A secret that people in high places don’t want revealed tumbles out, setting Henry on the run, a trail of his friends’ bodies behind him, and a string of new allies such as an undercover agent, Danielle (Winstead).
The chase spreads from the US to South America to Hungary, and back. And one gorgeous day, in a colourful street lined by graffiti, in Colombia, Henry meets the assassin sent to kill him. It is he at the age of 23, with that recognisable crop of hair, smooth cheeks, and big ears.
Lee, a veteran of both action films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and thoughtful ones such as Brokeback Mountain, lets his protagonists take things sometimes too leisurely for such a high-risks game; and at other times, races through events. Owen, for example, is a mere cipher as the main villain, being the brains behind the secret clone programme that has rendered Henry’s double, among others. The mention of shadowy forces used by regimes for dirty works like “making 12 Saudi princes disappear” is the closest the film comes to indicating a world beyond where Russia was “the Enemy”.
The conflict-of-the-clones is also unconvincing, with the film not sure how to treat the younger Smith. Its half-heartedness shows in its long-winded attempts at establishing him as a proxy son of the jaded Henry, without explicitly saying so.
In the small bits that she gets in the entire drama, Danielle sees the whole picture more clearly than the whole lot.