“Gemini Man” feels a little like a movie lost in time. With a plotline from the 1970s, action sensibilities of the 1990s and special effects from the 20-teens, it’s a little hard to get your bearings.
The result is about what you would expect, a mixed bag that just barely makes its way onto the positive side of the ledger thanks to the work of a lot of seasoned Hollywood professionals.
The concept is fairly straightforward, a retiring hitman (Will Smith) who “knows too much” is set to be taken out by a much younger clone of himself (also played by Will Smith, if you hadn’t already figured that out).
If you had just given me the title and that brief description, I would have sworn this movie came out in 1972 and starred Charlton Heston wearing a white jumpsuit.
Traveling the world searching for answers, Smith picks up some help from a rookie agent (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and an old friend (Benedict Wong), all while a much younger version of himself pops up and tries to kill him in a series of elaborate chases and fight scenes.
This being a Jerry Bruckheimer production, that means we are heavy on the explosions and shootouts and light on plot details and character development.
Clive Owen plays the bad guy, a slimy government agent so ridiculously over the top in regards to his remorseless motivations he would probably get rejected as a Bond villain for being too cheesy and unbelievable.
The most surprising name to see associated with this film is Oscar-winning director Ang Lee. For most directors, “Gemini Man” would be considered a competent and unremarkable piece of filmmaking, but for someone of Lee’s caliber, he’s basically just phoning it in and collecting a paycheck.
It’s possible Lee signed on less for the storytelling and more to push moviemaking technology. The movie heavily features age-reducing special effects to make Smith look 25 years younger and was shot in 120 frames-per-second high frame rate 4K 3D format.
Unfortunately for Lee, no theaters in America are equipped to screen the film in his desired high-frame-rate format, so that’s kind of a bummer.
As for the de-aging effect, it’s still clunky enough to take you right out of the movie. In some scenes, the effect is impressively uncanny as it looks like Smith is facing off against the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In others, it looks more like he’s facing off against Jar Jar Binks.
At any rate, using computers to take years off of actors continues to crop up in movies like “Captain Marvel” and the upcoming Robert De Niro/Al Pacino film “The Irishman.” I expect it to become more pervasive as the kinks get ironed out.
As for “Gemini Man,” it gets by enough on the cast’s pluck and charm to be just entertaining enough you won’t hate yourself for stumbling into the theater and sitting through it.
“Gemini Man” is rated PG-13 for violence and action throughout and brief strong language.