‘Gemini Man’ wastes a promising premise with a script as flat as the acting

Oct 11, 2019, 12:51 PM

Despite the fact it’s directed by two-time Oscar winner Ang Lee and stars mega-star Will Smith, Gemini Man is a sub-par thriller that wastes a promising premise.

Smith plays Henry Brogan, a hot-shot government assassin who’s afraid he’s losing a step and so announces his retirement. No sooner does he retire than he realizes he’s on the receiving end of a hit job assignment, and probably from his former bosses.

The trick of the movie is that — and this is given away in the trailers — the hot shot assassin gunning for him is none other than himself, or at least a version of himself, a much younger version of himself, in fact, a clone.

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After a few shootouts and chases with his unknown nemesis, Brogan can’t figure it out: “When I saw him, it was like seeing a ghost,” he says.

The younger version of himself, dubbed Junior, is equally puzzled, and uses the same ghost metaphor (maybe because he’s a clone?)

“He knew every move of mine before I made it. I’d have him right there, and take the shot, and he’d be gone, like a ghost,” he says.

As the beautiful agent who befriends Brogan concludes long after the audience has figured it out: “I think I know why he’s as good as you,” she says. “He is you.”

This premise could set up all sorts of questions about identity. If you share the same DNA but not the same life experiences, how similar are you? What would a 50-something version of you want to tell a 20-something version of you, and vice-versa? If the child is father to the man, what about a clone?

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But of course, the movie isn’t interested in the philosophical ramifications of clone-hood. Instead, it just wants to explain, as Brogan does, simplistically and dramatically, to his clueless clone.

“Twenty-five years ago he took my blood, he made you from me,” he says. Brogan’s clone then in turn confronts, simplistically and dramatically, his creator, his pretend father.

“You made a person out of another person, then you sent me to kill him,” he says.

Getting to play yourself and a young adult version of yourself could and should be a showcase for Smith’s acting talents, but instead, it just allows him to turn in two bad performances in a single film. It may not all be Smith’s fault. The script is about as flat as his performance.

So why would the much heralded Ang Lee take on such a relatively drab assignment? In recent years, Lee has taken an active interest in the most current film technology, specializing himself in high-end 3-D (Life of Pi) and accelerated frame rates (120fps for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk). Gemini Man allows him to play at the farthest edges of digitization, since “Junior” is a 100 percent digital creation, albeit based on Smith’s acting. Unfortunately, not only is the digitization not all that impressive, it ultimately doesn’t matter because it’s in the services of a not very good movie.

My advice, in the spirit of Gemini Man, skip it twice. Or send your clone.

Tom Tangney on KIRO Radio

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‘Gemini Man’ wastes a promising premise with a script as flat as the acting