While Will Smith’s star may not shine as bright as it once did, the usually bankable actor is still showing up in plenty of projects. But over the last several years it’s safe to say he has had more misses than hits. Movies like “Suicide Squad”, “Collateral Beauty”, “Focus”, and “Bright” were each ambitiously different yet they all missed their mark.
Unfortunately “Gemini Man” doesn’t exactly upend that trend. Smith’s latest isn’t a bad movie. It’s just aggressively average. It can be quite stunning especially during a couple of Oscar-winning director Ang Lee’s dazzling action sequences. But Lee’s reputation as a visionary filmmaker can only take the movie so far, and it can’t save “Gemini Man” from scattered bouts with blandness.
The story is held up by several familiar pillars. Smith plays a former special-ops soldier turned government assassin named Henry Brogan. As you might expect he’s the best in the world at what he does. But at 51-years-old his reflexes are slower, his body is tiring, and the ghosts of those he has killed are catching up to him. Needless to say, it’s time for retirement.
But you know these shady government types. They can’t let one of their greatest assets live happily ever after, especially when (unbeknownst to Henry) it turns out he is the genetic blueprint for the Super Soldier Progr….errr, Gemini Project. Clive Owen plays the ruthless director of the rogue program who sends his prized experiment, a younger and faster clone of Henry, to take out and replace his older self.
With the help of some often great but too often obvious CGI, Smith plays both his character’s older and younger versions. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is given an initially interesting but eventually thankless role as intelligence officer Danny Zakarweski. She is tasked with secretly keeping tabs on Henry until her cover is blown and she’s deemed to be a “loose end” by the government. She ends up partnering with Henry, helping him in his globetrotting search for answers and unavoidable face-off with his younger self.
There’s a strangely casual pacing to “Gemini Man”, not lethargic but not peppy either. There are a couple of exceptions, namely an exhilarating motorcycle chase in Columbia and a particularly good fight scene in some Budapest catacombs. Otherwise Lee pretty much strolls towards his inevitable action-packed finale. It’s also a very restrained action picture with Lee often pulling his camera away from the violence in strict PG-13 fashion. I’m not saying it needed grittier action, just maybe a few less obvious cuts.
“Gemini Man” ends up being a serviceable action thriller but not an especially fresh one. It does a lot of things simply okay and leaves you wishing for more in other areas (a snappier pace, some emotional heft from elder Henry, more for Winstead to do past the first act). By the time its nice and tidy ending hits you’re left with a fairly fun but unremarkable experience. I’m glad I saw it, but will I remember it next week? Probably not.
VERDICT – 2.5 STARS