September 28, 2020

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Double trouble

Not even two Will Smiths can save sci-fi stinker

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/10/2019 (352 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

One way movies have used to get maximum mileage from their stars was to give them double roles. The usual ploy would be to cast one actor as a pair of twins, a device employed for everyone from Jeremy Irons (Dead Ringers) to Tom Hardy (Legend) to Lindsay Lohan (Parent Trap) to Bette Davis (Dead Ringer).

Curiously, all those films have more convincing matchups that Gemini Man. Doubling your Will Smiths, it turns out, doesn't double your fun.

It should be a spoiler that, in Gemini Man, Smith's crack assassin Henry Brogan must go up against a younger, faster version of himself (also played by Smith via motion capture) — a clone.

But it's in the trailer, so...

Not even the A-list talent of Mary Elizabeth Winstead (from left), Will Smith and Benedict Wong can save Ang Lee's misfire. (Ben Rothstein / Paramount Pictures)

Not even the A-list talent of Mary Elizabeth Winstead (from left), Will Smith and Benedict Wong can save Ang Lee's misfire. (Ben Rothstein / Paramount Pictures)

Gemini Man begins by establishing just how good Brogan is, executing a suspected terrorist on a speeding train, but as he has reached the age of 51, the job is finally getting to him and he is officially retiring.

But of course, in movies like this, no assassin gets to retire.

Henry literally goes fishing. But before long, he finds himself under surveillance by a beautiful, unflappable agent Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Soon, both of them are the targets of a house-cleaning hit, ordered by sinister mercenary kingpin Clay Verris (Clive Owen), who heads up a Blackwater-like organization called Gemini.

Eventually, Henry finds himself going up against a fiendishly skilled killer and is shocked to discover the likely lad looks exactly like a younger version of himself. When his clone status is revealed — again, it's in the trailer — Henry, already riddled with guilt after years of assassinating, is faced with the prospect of literally killing himself.

If you want to see a movie in which a character is compelled to question the value of his own existence, you should probably stick with It's a Wonderful Life. The inquiry loses a lot of philosophical heft in a movie where faceless soldiers are eliminated on average once a minute.

Clive Owen (left) talks to a younger verison of Will Smith, a CG character who looks it. (Paramount Pictures)

Clive Owen (left) talks to a younger verison of Will Smith, a CG character who looks it. (Paramount Pictures)

Director Ang Lee has generally tried to layer meaning into even his most action-centric films (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hulk), but it's a lost cause here. Notwithstanding the sci-fi twist, the plot is just too rote.

Still, the movie has a couple of points of technical interest: it's available to screen in 3D at a frame rate of 120 frames per second (as opposed to the usual 24). When Peter Jackson presented The Hobbit in that format, it looked weirdly video-game-like. This film looks more cinematic, with crisper images and an almost startling sense of three-dimensional space.

But the video game curse still holds with respect to the younger Henry. He is a CG character and looks it, whether in the film's abundant action scenes, or when "Junior" is simply emoting in complete stillness.

Director Ang Lee opted to decline Smith submitting to the digital de-aging process that has, in recent years, given us convincingly fresh-faced versions of older stars such as Kurt Russell (Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2) and Michael Douglas (Ant-Man). Those iterations may not have been perfect, but they were better than this.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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