What I like about Ang Lee is that he’s always trying something different. Sometimes, you get Life of Pi. Other times, you get Hulk. Pi was a singular experience still unmatched seven years later. Hulk was a compulsive bore that still had great intentions. For every Brokeback Mountain, you’re getting a Taking Woodstock in return. All fresh ideas. Occasional successes. Seldom duds.
What I’m getting at is Gemini Man is one of those duds. Picture this: a film whose premise is that an assassin has to fight a younger clone of himself. We only get to this plot point a third of the way in. The film teases something that we already knew going in. That’s fine if a film wants to do this, but for something as short and unfocused as Gemini Man, you’re going to feel completely left in the dark. But, we’re not here for the story, right? We’re here for those special effects! Will Smith now fighting the Will Smith fresh off of the Fresh Prince set is what you all paid to see. I’ll give Lee and company credit. The younger Smith isn’t completely foolproof, but the effect is quite convincing for the most part.
Outside of this, there isn’t much joy here. The “charming” dialogue plays off as simplistically buffoonish. The story itself is almost a chore. How can a film where a master killer faces himself be so damn boring? Well, it just is. Gemini Man has an allegiance with the corniest tropes of cinema, and it fulfils this duty every single scene. We’re talking about the battles between dark and light, a future self identifying with one’s past, and a tiptoe across the fence of “be careful which me you shoot” (yeah, the film goes there).
So, what good is strong special effects, a committed Will Smith performance, and 120 mind boggling frames per second (or 60, or the basic 24, depending on which version you see), when the actual film itself is a conventional slog? Clive Owen’s villain (Clay: the director of the GEMINI project) is an irritating pest, Mary Elizabeth WInstead’s Danny is figured out way too easily (and there is no real actual tension between her or Smith, so you never feel either is in danger of each other, because the love angle has to take priority), and the pacing of the film is somehow both too fast and too slow. This isn’t just Ang Lee’s latest dud. It’s possibly his biggest.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.