Review: Gemini Man

Score: C+

Director: Ang Lee

Cast: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong

Running Time: 117 Minutes

Rated: PG-13

Will Smith, once the biggest movie star in the world, has had a rough go of it for the last decade-plus. Aside from Focus and Men in Black 3, it's been one disastrous star turn after another. But there's always been hope that his next project will be the one to return him to his box office glory, that his next movie will use his gifts properly and remind us all why he was so beloved. Well, the good news is that Gemini Man is not a disaster. But the bad news is it's still kind of a mess, and another questionable choice for the former Fresh Prince.

Smith plays Henry, a long-time assassin looking to hang up his rifle for good. He's barely even gotten a chance to enjoy some fishing when a former colleague tips him off that his last hit was a loose end in the Gemini project, not a terrorist. And now that he knows, his former handler Clay (Clive Owen) orders that Henry and everyone associated with him has to be taken out. On the run in different exotic locales, Clay dispatches Junior, a younger, more agile clone of Henry. The film tries to hold onto this reveal for as long as possible, which makes it anti-climactic, since every single piece of marketing has already given this away.

The de-aging effects mostly work, as long as Junior isn't doing much talking. (It's the lips that aren't quite perfect.) When Junior has a breakdown in Clay's office, Smith is doing some of his best acting. But it's undercut by the not-quite-seamless effects. Otherwise, the big action setpieces work extremely well. When Smith is chasing himself on a motorcycle through crowded Colombian streets, or fighting himself in the catacombs under Budapest, it's thrilling. But when it gets bogged down in exposition or misguided attempts at profundity, it's deathly dull.

Much has been made about Ang Lee's further attempts with 120fps projection and breakthroughs in 3-D technology. Alas, the screening I attended did not offer this, and only a handful of theaters in the country are even equipped to display the film as intended. But I can say that if you go to a theater that actually cares about presentation, you'll be treated to a pristine, colorful image. That's a nice alternative to the many drab superhero movies that are filmed only on green screen stages or cavernous warehouses. The film's use of practical locations (or at least tactile recreations) counts for something.

Seeing this in optimal conditions – a crisp digital presentation and excellent sound – might be enough for people to feel like it's 1999 again, making Gemini Man one of the big popcorn movies of a bygone era. It wasn't quite enough for me, even with two Wills for the price of one.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.