Brokeback Mountain and Life Of Pi director Ang Lee makes a detour into the sci-fi action genre with Gemini Man, a high-concept story originally developed in the late 90s. It sees Will Smith play Henry Brogan, a retiring government assassin who’s so good his employers just won’t let him quit. Instead of throwing him a leaving bash with bitter tears in their eyes, they’ve decided to send their best asset to permanently retire him: “Junior”, Henry’s younger clone, who has been trained to be the proto-super-soldier by surrogate daddy figure Clay Verris (Clive Owen, sporting a very aggressive side-parting).
The pleasingly daft premise promised Face/Off-meets-Looper, but what we end up getting is closer to Jack And Jill. Indeed, Gemini Man never fully capitalizes on the concept, nor the potential thrills of seeing Smith fighting his de-aged digital clone. It essentially ends up as an inert showcase for the visual effects and the high frame rate, which Lee previously used in 2016’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. The extra-high 120 frame-per-second look is impressive and gives the image a hyper-real feel, but only comes off as distracting and gimmicky when it’s paired with a derivative thriller. The script by Billy Ray, Darren Lemke and Game Of Thrones showrunner David Benioff is brimming with ear-scrapingly poor dialogue; their efforts only serve to highlight how expensive effects can’t make up for an aggressively formulaic screenplay, one that feels like the first draft for a video-game spin-off of a Jason Bourne film.
Gemini Man | Directed by Ang Lee (US, 2019), with Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong. Starts Oct 3.
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