Ang Lee has always been a visionary director who has challenged conventions with certain genres. While he doesn’t always hit a home run, Lee can at least be appreciated for wanting to take ideas to help usher in classic films. “Gemini Man” should have been a slam dunk. It would have been a slam dunk. But as a film, it’s so much more a concept meant to do pretty much everything but tell a story that’s engaging. It flexes its CGI, as well as Hollywood’s current fetish for de-aging stars and trying to find ways to beat mortality for the sake of cashing in on them as long as possible.
In that arena, “Gemini Man” is a huge miss that sinks deeper and deeper as abysmal, murky science fiction nonsense the more it progresses. Henry Brogan is an elite 51-year-old assassin who’s ready to call it quits after completing his 72nd job. His plans get turned upside down when he becomes the target of a mysterious operative who can seemingly predict his every move. To his horror, Brogan soon learns that the man who’s trying to kill him is a younger, faster, cloned version of himself.
While Lee’s film flaunts its ability to de-age Will Smith as much as possible, it can never escape that nasty uncanny valley effect. So while it is kind of interesting to see Smith de-aged in fleeting moments, once his young and older counterparts become the focus of “Gemini Man,” it becomes apparent that we have so much farther to go in the technology. Lee’s film often feels like early aughts science fiction that focuses a lot on clones, and assassins, and dystopias, and watches like Smith is reaching for yet another blockbuster in a gradually waning career. While Smith definitely is fine in the role, he spends so much more time trying to create a sense of duality within both roles, and he’s never quite up to the task.
Smith just isn’t a good enough actor to create the electricity and tension between an older and younger version of himself, in the end. Even with the supporting performances from a cast (including Clive Owen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Benedict Wong, respectively) that help guide the movie all the way to the exhausting climax, “Gemini Man” is much more an EFX reel at the end of the day than a film with any kind of substance or fascinating ideas about sense of self and embracing your past and the idea of aging. It’s mainly just both Smiths whining about daddy issues and trying to find common ground, and almost nothing else. “Gemini Man” will be known for many things, including a dull, abysmal experiment that just flopped right out of the gate.