Gemini Man Movie Review
The most innovative aspect of Ang Lee’s Gemini Man, which was filmed at an extremely high frame rate and boasts a digitally de-aged Will Smith, is how unintentionally dated it feels. From the plot to the pace and even the special effects, Gemini Man feels like a relic of the past, a movie that is 20+ years too late.
Smith plays an assassin who, after retiring, becomes the target of the U.S. government he once served, because of course that is what happens anytime one of these people retires, right? What he soon discovers, however, is that the person sent to kill him is none other than a creepy-looking clone of himself.
And that’s the plot.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s not clear what the real hook of the film is (and Will Smith, decades past his prime, battling another Will Smith, is not a real hook). Lee apparently has little interest in delivering a torrent pace, for Gemini Man takes a while to get going and has other stretches of lots and lots of talking. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, but the plot is so basic and straightforward—the characters, too, with the elder Smith playing the world’s nicest former assassin and Clive Owen (speaking of relics of the past) playing the cliché evil government official—that the story seems desperate for something original or clever.
Gemini Man’s strength is its action scenes, which is a good thing for an action movie. Lee delivers a few fairly entertaining and extended action sequences, including a motorcycle chase through Cartagena, Colombia and a somewhat elaborate shootout toward the end. There’s something to like about the action—and then Lee goes and mangles them with some pretty questionable visual effects.
The motorcycle scene ends with the Will Smith clone repeatedly trying to run over his elder, bending the realm of believability and physics—and it shows. At other times, the two Smiths fight each other with fists and feet, but their movements look surreal and unnatural, and certainly not like how we know Smith moved back in his Bad Boys days.
The reason Gemini Man appears dated is that the action, while fine on its own, pales in comparison to what audiences have come to expect of modern action movies. From James Bond to The Bourne Supremacy, quality action movies have advanced considerably since this movie first began to gestate way back in the 90s (according to IMDB, pre-right wing whacko Clint Eastwood was originally slated to star in it). John Wick has set the bar for action choreography, Mission: Impossible for spectacle, and so forth. Gemini Man’s high points seem plucked from these other movies, and not done as well.
As for the de-aging visual effects, they’re both impressive and distracting at the same time. When the younger Smith is silent, he almost looks realistic—but when he opens his mouth to talk, the movie just can’t claw itself out of the Uncanny Valley. It just doesn’t look right, and the higher frame rate—and higher clarity—don’t help.
For all its faults, Gemini Man is an easy watch, a moderately entertaining experience that at least hints of Will Smith’s better years. But in the end, it’s a movie that cost way too much money to deliver what is ultimately the end product: a lackluster action movie that delivers nothing new.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.