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Gemini Man


‘…a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy…’

Turning up on Netflix like an unwanted guest, or two, Ang Lee’s Gemini Man passed most of us by during a short cinema release where it failed to recoup a substantial cost; a quick swatch at the idiocies involved gives us the chance to make a clear diagnosis. Shot in some kind of super-dynamic clear-o-vision, it’s one of these films where the technology involved seems to have overwhelmed everyone involved, and the result feels as visually forced as a glitchy PS2 game.

Will Smith is a big name for sure, but as anyone who has sat through films like After Earth or Seven Pounds can attest, he can also be a permanent strain to watch, and it remains to be seen if his tennis turn in King Richard can reverse an ongoing career slump. Here he plays several roles; initially, an aging hit-man cliche, let’s call him Will Old, who wants out of the assassination game. Will Old finds himself pursued through Georgia, Colombia, Hungary and various green-screen studios by another version of himself, let’s call him Will Young. Sidekicks Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Benedict Wong help Will Old stay one jump ahead of Will Young, but spoiler alert, Will Young’s handler (Clive Owen) has a third Will Even Younger up his sleeve, forcing Will Old and Will Young to sort the matter out Big Willie Style.

Gemini Man feels like it would have been old hat 25 years ago, when it was originally mooted as a vehicle for every bankable star with a creatively bankrupt agent. But Ang Lee, usually a very capable director with a gift for technically assisted storytelling, seems to have drawn the short straw here with a narrative that is remarkably perfunctory. Smith doesn’t give much of a performance in any of his incarnations, and the over-qualified support’s attempts to breathe life into this dummy of a film are the few saving graces.

Viewed in 1080p on Netflix, Gemini Man at least looks different; with all elements of each scene in vivid focus, it’s an absolute pain to look at, and Lee misses out on one of the basics of cinematic language; being able to chose the focus and direct the audience. Thus, even as Will Old and Will Young scrap, the viewer is drawn to each and every other object in the frame, and the eye-burning result feels like when the lights go on in a nightclub at 4am. Gemini Man was an expensive and deserved flop on release, but streaming should put the tin lid on its reputation; like Smith’s central performance, it’s dull, vanilla, and a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of what movies could and should be. As Smith himself once suggested, in happier times, break out, before you get bum-rushed…


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  1. I saw this film when it came out in theaters. The CGI was about as convincing as Henry Cavill’s mustache cover-up in “Justice League”. I also remember the action was exceptionally bad — this film would have fared far better as a self-aware comedy than a serious, generic action flick.

    • It’s just SOOOO out of date; I can imagine seeing this in 1997 and thinking it was terrible, and the tech doesn’t help. The CGI Will Smiths look horrid.

  2. Smith’s role in King Richard seems like a carbon copy of his character in The Pursuit of Happyness, rife with the same ol’ “Don’t let anyone tell you you’re second best” trope speeches to the kids. I can do without.

    And while your Smith-thorn is Gemini Man . . . and it’s justified: I’d have to counter with Bright. Ugh. That movie. Oy, that movie.

    • I’ve never attempted Bright due to many warnings. And I’m not convinced that King Richard will be more than hype, but we’ll see….

      • And back to the “Oscar Bait” argument with this type of film: If King Richard doesn’t get a nod: Will this will be Concussion all over again? Will Jada Pinkett go off the rails about “Oscars So White” as to why Will’s talent wasn’t realized?

        As you with Bright: I never attempted Concussions, as result of the many warnings to not watch it. Everyone tells me the accent is awful and “goes in and out” through the film.

        Actors ranting that they didn’t get a nod, etc. It’s a discouragement to invest time in their next film. (Jen Aniston in Cake is an example.) Just do you best work, and move on. If you receive a nod or an award, great. But don’t social media whine about it.

        • Totally agree. That whining drives me mad. I’ve seen Concussion, Smith isn’t great in it at all, and somehow it doesn’t say anything about a crucial subject. There are great performances that should have won awards, but Smith has been way over-recognised for his rather average work to date.

  3. I almost picked this up the last time I was in the library. Might reconsider.

    Ang Lee is capable enough on some projects. I don’t think this is really his métier though.

    • Life of Pi, Brokeback, Ice Storm, even Billy Lynn, he’s good for sure, but he’s not the man to revive a 25 year old action dud. Your library seem have new stock in, so maybe save it for a rainy day.

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