Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).
In 2013, Ang Lee was at the top his game—a two-time Oscar winner (2005’s Brokeback Mountain and 2012’s Life of Pi) with a slew of additional top-notch films to his credit, including Eat Drink Man Woman, Sense and Sensibility, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
But then… well, who knows what happened? All we know is that something did, because Lee’s credits since then include only two movies: 2016’s abysmal Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and, now, Will Smith’s latest starrer, Gemini Man, which—though not quite at the disappointment level of Halftime—feels very much like a standard, car-chases-’n-shootouts action flick that would seem completely normal arriving in theaters the third week of July. It's little more than a Jason Bourne-lite attempt to remind us that Will Smith was once a solid action film star.
Smith stars as Henry Brogan, the best sniper in the world and a man looking to retire to a life of fishing in Georgia after notching 72 kills. But there’s always that one last job, and, for Brogan, it’s the assassination of a super-villainous bio-terrorist. After dispatching the guy, Brogan quickly learns that his target wasn’t nefarious at all. He was a biologist who’d been working for Brogan’s old Marine superior Clay Varris (Clive Owen) on a project called Gemini.
Naturally, Varris sends a hit squad to kill Brogan, including a young man named “Junior”, a perfect-match DNA clone of Brogan that Varris cooked up in a lab 23 years earlier. The gimmick, of course, is that Smith plays both parts—Brogan himself and Junior with the help of considerable motion capture, digital de-aging, and other snazzy Hollywood tricks.
Though Lee seems to very especially proud of the end result (often lingering on a full-face close-up of Junior), it’s hard to believe the end result is exactly what he was going for. It’s not much better, in fact, than the now-famous viral Deepfake clip of Bill Hader morphing into Tom Cruise. Beyond that, though, Gemini Man is exactly like every other action movie with Bruce Willis, Liam Neeson, or Jason Statham: bad guy chases good guy around the world (here, it’s Colombia and Hungary), fistfights ensue, car chases are not far behind, and we all wait for the bad guy to get his comeuppance right before the credits roll.
Helping somewhat is the inclusion of the sparkling Mary Elizabeth Winstead as an agent originally brought in to track Brogan before winding up as his ally. Benedict Wong, too, shines as an old buddy who helps Brogan lay low. Smith, though, despite kicking his own butt (literally) in the fight scenes, otherwise seems content to half-sleepwalk his way through the film, and Owen just spends the bulk of the movie spouting eyeroll-inducing drivel like, “Brogan has to die. He's your darkness you had to walk through on your own.”
Before Lee got his hands on it, Gemini Man had been stuck in various stages of development since 1997, because the technology wasn’t advanced enough to do it justice. Though movie magic has clearly improved since then, it’s still not where it needs to be to avoid more than a few chuckles from the audience throughout the film’s runtime. That, a tired script, lackluster lead performances, and an uninspired director will kill you every time.