It’s a familiar story — the old dependable guy is fading due to age and fatigue of the job, and the big corporation behind his exploits has a plan to replace him with someone better, who turns out to be none other than his younger self. What’s ironic is that this describes not just the plot of Will Smith’s newest action film “Gemini Man,” but also the meta narrative of this new special effects trickery that presents Smith as we saw him thirty years ago in “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”
Will Smith is Henry Brogan, premier assassin, and the best there is. When he tries to retire, his agency feels the need to replace him with a secret program called Project Gemini. Soon, Henry comes face to face with his greatest opponent yet: his own clone.
“Gemini Man” is your typical fun, summer blockbuster, only a couple of months late to the party. The studio Paramount likely figured the fading star of Smith wasn’t enough for the movie release to compete with the behemoth of Disney and their never ending Marvel sequels, so releasing “Gemini Man” in October gave it a chance to shine.
It’s a shame too, with a few script tweaks, the movie could have been the sleeper hit of the year. Director Ang Lee is familiar with action, and this film contains some pretty solid action scenes. The intriguing premise makes those fight scenes even more engaging — I mean, who else could be a better match for an aging assassin than his younger, quicker, and stronger self?
Smith is also quite good in the role. Especially in the dialogue scenes with himself, which to make work in a movie, is not as easy a task as one would think. It does help that the special effects putting two Smith’s on screen together are seamless, with the effect of young Smith being pretty convincing.
Unfortunately, it’s everything around Smith that’s rather lackluster. The story is disappointingly basic, bad guy makes clone and sends him to kill and replace the original. The music is forgettable, and the locations are used awkwardly in the narrative — characters zig zag across the same three spots of Georgia, Columbia, and Budapest so many times, that they probably qualify for frequent flyer miles.
The filmmakers tried to raise interesting questions about the ethics of cloning, especially as soldiers in war. But they didn’t really know how to address them, or explore in detail. There was a moment where the villain — played by Clive Owen with a barely passable American accent — talked about families losing their loved ones due to war, and how cloning would avoid that issue.
He does have a point, but he’s still talking about humans dying. It also Additionally, the fact that Henry’s younger clone is also a world class assassin implies that being a ruthless killer is somehow coded within his DNA, which makes as much sense as saying he has great acting ability in his DNA as well.
On top of this, throw in some hazy social commentary on privatized military outfits and absent fathers making their sons good killers, and a little bit of CGI magic on Smith’s face, and you have this movie. If it all feels like a film belonging to the 90’s — that’s because it was written in the 90’s, and only finally was produced now.
I am curious to see where this digital technology that makes actors look young again will go in the future. Soon Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” will do the same to Robert De Niro. Whatever the case, it appears “de-aging” is a word now, and Hollywood stars will likely have new language in their contracts preventing studios from using their likenesses like this after their death.
While the idea isn’t something we haven’t seen before, the movie is worth watching. It would be easy to lampoon Owen’s line “It’s like watching the Hindenburg crash into the Titanic,” and apply it to the film. But it’s a serviceable action ride you can munch popcorn to. If you haven’t seen “Joker,” then that’s still in theaters, and there’s the animated “The Addams Family” if you’re already in the Halloween mood. But this is fine.
- Exciting action.
- Well done effect de-aging Will Smith.
- Incredible acting by Will Smith.
- Formulaic plot.
- Bland music and set design.