Visionary director Ang Lee and legendary actor Will Smith team up for the new sci-fi action thriller, Gemini Man. The film centers around Henry Brogan (Smith), an elite assassin on his way into retirement. Before Henry can spend one day on his retirement boat, an old friend gives Henry some information that makes him the target of his former employer.
As Ric Flair famously said, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.” Taking a page out of Flair’s book, Henry’s former agency and Verris (Clive Owen) send a younger version of Henry aka Junior to kill Henry – talk about a retirement package.
Henry and fellow agent Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) travel the globe as they face off against Junior and Verris in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse.
Gemini Man is typical action film. There’s an easy three act structure to follow, small action beats, big action set pieces, a twist, and a big showdown with the bad guy. The script is so-so (it definitely gets better), and the story never tries to be something it’s not.
There are a few things that make Gemini Man entertaining and more than the sum of its parts. The most obvious point is Will Smith. Smith is a star, he knows how to carry a big action film. He looks natural in every action sequence and can turn up the charm to add some comedy and amusement to the action scenes. Smith is also a seasoned enough actor to sell the serious elements of Henry’ s character that are at the center of who he is.
Ang Lee’s direction helps elevate the film as well. There’s an amazing chase sequence that uses multiple camera angles and 3D to create an adrenaline fueled atmosphere that feels like a mix of Fast and Furious and Mission and Impossible. Lee puts the audience right in the middle of the action to help the experience how chaotic a motorcycle chase is.
The final showdown is everything action audiences want in their films. The hero facing impossible odds, hand-to-hand combat, slow motion bullets, and a villainous monologue. It’s every action movie made since the 1980’s. What makes this formulaic film work is Will Smith and how beautiful the scenes are shot. Smith sells these action scenes and cheesy dialogue so good, it makes you forget how many times you’ve seen it before.
The one thing that weighs the film down is the script. Some of the dialogue in the first act is really bad, Lifetime movie bad. And not just bad, it feels lazy. It was weird watching an A+ action scene with D- dialogue. Thankfully the script picks up and delivers a great confrontation during one of the best scenes.
One of the most incredible things this movie does is deliver a 100% CGI human character. Most eyes can tell Junior isn’t “real” but it never takes people out of the film. This is the first time this technology has been used in film. It’ll be interesting to see how this technology is used in the future.
Gemini Man is fun. The story doesn’t deliver anything audiences haven’t seen before. Smith and the action sequences are what keep this film afloat. A series about the GEMINI project and Henry’s adventures as an assassin would be really fun to watch. Smith’s sci-fi return to the big screen may not be a home run, but it’s a solid at-bat. It serves as a reminder that Will Smith is really good in big action movies – there are few that can do it better.