Maybe it was a sign that this film was ill-fated when it took almost 20 years for it to get off the ground. During this time numerous directors were attached at some point or another and an equal number of leading men stepped in and out of this sci-fi thriller. Finally it fell upon director Ang Lee and leading man Will Smith to film the story by writers David Benioff, Billy Ray and Darren Lemke.
Gemini Man is the story of Henry Brogan (Will Smith), a highly accomplished assassin on the verge of retirement. After 72 kills, Brogan says his soul “is hurt" and he craves “some peace". This is just a sample of the kind of corny dialogue that abounds in this hotchpotch of a script. Little does Brogan know that he’s far from hanging up his rifle because his former employer has put a mark on his back and his gun must now be used in self defence.
The killer assigned the task of finishing off Brogan is unimaginatively called Junior (Will Smith). He’s a younger, faster, enhanced version of the 51 year old—matched not just in skills, but also in appearance.
Clayton Varris (Clive Owen), who heads a defence operation called Gemini, has been running a cloning programme and his prize creation is Junior. The one time you are in awe of this face-off is during a bike and foot chase in Colombia where the older man first encounters his doppelganger’s relentless attack.
Brogan enlists two allies, Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a blacklisted former intelligence operative, and former colleague Baron (Benedict Wong). The trio travel from Georgia, USA to Colombia and Hungary in order to find out the truth behind Gemini’s operations.
Gemini Man is largely an exercise in special effects, with digital de-ageing of Smith and motion capture to create Junior. Also, like his 2016 drama, Billy Lynnn’s Long Halftime Walk, Lee has once again opted for a high frame rate of 120 fps. The result is that the CGI looks weird and jerky. Will Smith vs Will Smith is novel up to a point, but then the long conversations become tedious and a teary, conflicted fighting machine is hard to fathom.
Perhaps it’s time for Ang Lee to return to more personal, intimate stories like The Wedding Banquet or a rich and layered canvas like he found in Life of Pi or the stunning balletic action of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.