When Jesus said to build your house on the rock and not the sand (Matthew 7: 24-27), it is hard to argue that he would be talking about a movie, but this story ran through my mind frequently while watching Gemini Man. The film may have a big star, interesting premise, and high profile director, but the story it is set on is, well, sandy at best. This is the type of movie that seems to have missed its premiere in the public eye by a decade or so.
Fresh off his last mission, veteran hit man Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is looking forward to retirement. He soon finds out that he and his few close friends are sought after by the government (don’t ask why, for it is simple yet confusing at the same time), led by one of his old cohorts, Clay Verris (Clive Owen). Along for the ride is an upcoming agent (or whatever the proper title is), Danny Zakarweski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
If you have seen any of the previews for this film, it comes as no surprise that Henry faces off against a cloned version of himself (also played by Smith). This is a younger version (I believe the film said 25 years younger), who, we learn, has been brought up and raised by Verris. The movie does talk a lot about the issue of cloning (which I don’t remember being a hot topic since my freshman English Class of High School, which I lost the debate against cloning). The cloned version of Henry (called Junior) has all the skills and attributes of Henry, but would not have to experience the after affects such as PTSD and depression.
The action sequences are not much to marvel at (save for a cool motorcycle sequence). There are few (and I mean very few) glimpses of images that look affective, but they are muddled by choreography that ranges from the mediocre to the implausible. There are parts in the motorcycle chase (at the end of it) that seem to defy logic of any kind. What is more, none of that matters. We don’t get enough time with these characters to actually feel something about them when they are in these action set pieces.
Will Smith is undoubtedly one of the top five or so movie stars these days, but he dials down his talents here in both roles. Yes, we can tell the two characters he is playing apart through CGI, vocal work, and a shave, but there is so little to care about these characters that there is no point. This is also one of the first times I can every remember Will Smith having virtually zero chemistry with a female star. That is nothing against the actors. It is just clear the chemistry is not present at all.
Parents, there is one scene where Danny is forced to strip to her underwear that lasts only a minute or so. Nothing sexual. There is some swearing (one F bomb that I caught), and some intense action scenes. The PG-13 rating is just, so middle-schoolers and up would be okay.
The film does take a stance against the idea of cloning. It does not dive into the religious aspects of the idea of cloning (how we are, truly, made in God’s image). It is a topic (as is many of the branches of science) that is hotly disputed by Christians, and I will not try to start an argument about it here. What I will say is I would rather the movie be wrong over it’s stance of a topic and be presented in an effective way than have a film be correct about a stance of the topic and be boring.
Smith is indeed no stranger to having his share of what many consider bad movies. These include (but are not limited to) films like Bright (2017) Collateral Beauty (2016), After Earth (2013), Shark Tale (2004), and, of course, Wild Wild West (1999). Having a bad Will Smith movie is not something completely new to us. What does seem new (and completely shocking) is that this film was made by director Ang Lee. An Oscar winner for Best Director twice over, he has given us revered films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Brokeback Mountain (2005), and The Life of Pi (2012).
When I say that Gemini Man is one of the director’s worst films, keep in mind that includes his movie Hulk from 2003.