09th Dec2019

‘Gemini Man’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Benedict Wong, Clive Owen, Douglas Hodge, Ralph Brown, Linda Emond, Ilia Volok, E.J. Bonilla, Victor Hugo, David Shae | Written by David Benioff, Billy Ray, Darren Lemke | Directed by Ang Lee


Apparently a script that has been floating around Hollywood since 1997 and only now, I’m guessing with the availability of CGI technology, coming to the screen, Gemini Man tells the story of top-notch assassin Henry Brogan. One of the worlds, if not THE, premier assassin. Only Henry wants to retire and we all know that government agencies can;’t just let great assets like Henry retire. Ever. Well they can if their dead… And that what Clive Owen’s Clay Verris wants to do. Kill Henry. Only to kill an assassin as good as Brogan you need an equally good assassin. And what better than a clone?

From the get-go you can’t help but think Gemini Man is somewhat familiar, after all this feels very much like a retread of Rian Johnson’s Looper or John Woo’s Face/Off – films where the protagonist and antagonist are so alike they can predict each other moves, making for the ultimate adversaries. Of course we’re not privy, at first. to the fact Henry’s attacked is a clone but its not a plot point that is as huge, or necessary, as one might think. This is – for the most part – all about the action at hand.

Which is surprising given that this is a film by Ang Lee, the director who focused more on the humanity of Marvel’s Incredible Hulk in his version of the film that on the spectacle. Here it seems the opposite – the action, the stuntwork and the CGI are the strs of this show. But that’s not to say Gemini Man is mindless entertainment. No, for the film actually and subtly touches upon a number of pertinent issue.

For a start the film says a lot abut nature vs. nurture. We have a character, Will Smith’s Henry Brogan, who grew up, had a life and that life led him to become a killer. One of the best killer’s ever in fact. So good that he was cloned. Yet the clones, despite a different upbringing, being born directly into this life instead of growing into it, all act and operate exactly the same as Henry. Is that because Henry’s DNA was that of an assassin? There’s an argument that the type of man Henry is only comes from experience – but Gemini Man posits that it’s down to genetics instead.

Gemini Man is also something of a commentary on the nature of war and the effects it has on man. Not just the people caught up in war, but the men who go and fight on behalf of the rest of us, keeping us safe. Verris’ plan to genetically remove feelings, emotions and pain from the clones – to make them perfect killing machines is both a commentary on the commercialisation of war but of the effects it has on soldiers, such as PTSD. It may only be touched upon briefly but it offers Gemini Man a greater depth that your standard action-movie fare.

But, as I said previously, Gemini Man is for the most part all about the action. And for a massively budgeted film this feels very much like a small-scale affair. Of course most of the budget would have gone to Will Smith and the effects work it took to de-age him (effects may I add that look good but literally fall apart in the daytime scenes – just look at the dead eyes of younger Smith at the end fo the film for example) but for a film that apparently cost over $150million dollars its hard to see where the money was spent…

There’s bike stunts that look on a par with the kind off vehicular mayhem you’d see in Jackie Chan’s 80s films, which were made on a paltry budget compared to this; there’s no considerable set-pieces to speak off and, honestly, the rest of the action consists of mainly gun play and hand to hand combat. For all intents and purposes Gemini Man looks and feels like a mid-budget 90s action film – which is not a bad thing for the audience, after all who doesn’t love those kids of 90s action flicks? But when you’ve spent that kind of money as a filmmaker I’m guessing such results are a huge problem!

Ultimately Gemini Man is a fun throwback-style film that at least gives Will Smith a chance to shine, for his charisma carries a LOT of this film, and ticks a myriad of those action film boxes, making it an ideal watch for genre fans.

Gemini Man is out (at least in the US) on Digital on December 23rd, before being released to DVD and Blu-ray in January,.


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