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Gemini Man

Gemini Man (IMAX)

- for violence and action throughout, and brief strong language.
Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong
Running Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: October 11, 2019


Plot Summary

An over-the-hill hitman faces off against a younger clone of himself. (from IMDb)

Film Review

The action movie genre is often times its own separate niche "animal," so to speak. In the 80's and 90's, it ruled the box office -- long before the heroes wore capes or iron suits -- and they often didn't take themselves much too seriously. Today, viewers and especially critics seem to demand a lot more from their entertainment, and it leaves little room for movies that are more aimed to entertain than anything else. Enter Ang Lee's Gemini Man, which stars former box office golden boy Will Smith in the titular role as a ready-to-retire sharpshooter who gets caught in the crosshairs himself.

Everyone in front of the camera seem to take the story and situations pretty seriously, but the story and action often beg the audience to suspend their disbelief. Smith turns in a solid and committed performance as Henry, a 50-year-old man who has begun feeling his years and questioning his talents. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane) joins Smith on the run as a burned agent named Danny, and the two have enough chemistry to make their partnership carry the film. Some of the plot elements--and even character models--may seem a little too familiar for their own good (like Clive Owen's take on the film's main antagonist, Clay Verris), but the fact we don't really get many movies like this anymore--and the fact that it's still crafted pretty well--makes it seem a little more forgivable. Gemini Man feels like an homage to a genre of days past, and on that front, it mostly works.

Director Ang Lee, whose credits include the hot mess that was 2003's Hulk (prior to the launch of the MCU 5 years later), and the acclaimed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, returns to the action drama, and delivers an entertaining film with strong players, but he leans far too much on special effects to fuel a lot of the action. Back when The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers debuted some 17 years ago, audiences and critics marveled at the emotion and detail that was able to come through Andy Serkis' motion capture performance of the digital creature, Gollum. Over a decade and a half later, there is still a tangible struggle to get a realistic performance out of digital characters, and Will Smith's younger, digitally-created self, is seldom convincing (especially when you consider how Marvel successfully and convincingly de-aged Samuel L. Jackson for Captain Marvel just a few months ago!) In the action scene he's introduced in, he seems completely digital (couldn't a real stand-in be employed for this?!), and then the first time his face is fully revealed, it feels like an unconvincing mixture of a live human character in a scene with a digital creation. But what's odd about that is that only a couple scenes later we see far more realistic effects used for the character, with a following scene being actually impressive as he is forced to deliver an emotional performance. But by the film's end, the effects used for the clone are borderline embarrassing (maybe they were scenes from a reshoot session, so they ran out of time and/or money for the effects?). This movie puts its entire existence on the line with its concept, and the fact that it is so inconsistent just really hurts the end product even more. A great film can often overcome these kinds of shortcomings, but Gemini Man isn't that kind of movie. Part of that is also due to some ridiculous action moments. Smith is in his early 50's now, and his character is said to be 51, so when he survives things like tumbling off a motorcycle at a high speed and then getting hit in the head with the wheel of a motorcycle, you have to wonder how they could expect viewers to accept such extreme action as believable. Then, moments later, Smith performs the world's most impressive push-up as he leaps into the air to avoid getting sliced by the motorcycle yet again. (To be fair, he wears some pretty serious road rash for the rest of the film, but it barely slows him down or seems to affect him all that much.) One other nitpick I have to mention, too--and I'm not sure if it was just especially noticeable on an IMAX screen--but there seemed more than just a couple scenes where characters were inexpicably set against a green screen. They're mostly talking scenes, but things like a city street or a horizon behind them are visibly green screen shots, albeit to a more keen eye. Again, a movie this reliant on technology and special effects seems like it should be able to deliver more impressive effects.

Big box office blockbusters like Men In Black or Independence Day aside, Will Smith has had a very noteworthy film career, and Gemini Man feels more like a cousin to the more character-driven sci-fi vehicles he made in the 2000's, like I, Robot and I Am Legend. Smith is a solid and charismatic actor--and maybe that signature cocky attitude of his was what his character of Henry could have benefited from in Gemini Man, but his character here makes sense as a more serious portrayal since he's clearly experiencing an existential crisis of sorts as he tries to retire from his hitman ways but can't seem to escape his demons. Furthermore, he's being hunted by his younger self and tries to confront his shortcomings in the process. You can't say that Smith and Lee don't try to make Gemini Man more than a mindless action film, but it does fallback too much on what the genre in its heyday used to be. (There's even a scene toward the end that is altogether out of left field and predictable that makes the bewildered look on the characters' faces all that more appropriate).

The content for Gemini Man is a firm PG-13, with quite a bit of violence and a fair amount of language. There are stretches of the film without either, but the language did pick up as the film's story gained momentum. There is one casually spoken "F" word (when someone asks what "AMF" stands for, and Danny answers), and then Danny, with her mouth taped up, clearly muffles out a "*bleep* you." Otherwise, there's about 11 uses of the "S" word and "h*ll," as well as an assortment of other colorful words, including blasphemy. The violence is heavy at times, with blood mostly being shown on wounds and as part of the aftermath of the action. We see a couple characters with big bloody road rash abrasions on their face and body, and at one point, a close-up of a deep cut on Henry's arm that Danny is sewing up. There's also a brief moment where Danny threatens to interrogate a guy without his teeth (meaning she'd extract them), and then the next shot shows her dumping a handful of teeth into Henry's hand (we don't see anything else though). Several characters sustain facial injuries, too, which leave them with some bloody cuts on their face throughout the movie.

With all the bad buzz surrounding Gemini Man, I was surprised to enjoy it as much as I did (and Lorne Balfe's Mission: Impossible - Fallout-style film score definitely didn't hurt the feel of this movie either). It's hardly a great movie, but it's well-acted and enjoyable enough to be worth watching for anyone who can enjoy a big action popcorn film as much as an Oscar-winning drama. It doesn't live up to Smith's prior film legacy (hey, it was better than Wild Wild West and Collateral Beauty at least), which is a shame, but I think it shows that Smith can still deliver in this genre, even if the script may be lacking. If you can appreciate a flawed action movie and not take it too seriously, than Gemini Man is the kind of rainy afternoon matinee (or lazy evening rental) that should get the job done.

- John DiBiase (reviewed: 10/19/19)



Parental Guide: Content Summary

. Sex/Nudity: Henry's friend Jack is clearly married, but we see a beautiful young blonde in a bikini walking around on his yacht. Henry calls him out on it and Jack makes an excuse that he's making up for the years he spent in service. Henry then makes a crack about Jack having done this sort of thing back then, too. Later, we see the girl standing on the back of the yacht wearing just a thin robe of sorts, with it being open, covering her chest, but revealing a sliver open down the center past her bellybutton. (No explicit detail is seen.); A woman is forced to strip for a security check. We see her in her bra and a man walks around her looking her up and down (nothing explicit is shown); A man asks another man if he's still a virgin (because he has trouble getting close to people).
. Vulgarity/Language: 1 "F" word (and 1 additional muffled one), 11 "S" words, 11 "h*ll," 4 "a" words, 1 "*ssh*le," 2 "J-sus," 3 "g*dd*mn," 1 "p*ss off"
. Alcohol/Drugs: Henry's friend comes to his house and asks for a drink; Jack has a drink on his yacht; We see people drinking in a bar; We see Henry's friend with a drink, but Henry takes it and replaces it with a Coke.
. Blood/Gore: After Henry shoots a man on a train, we see footage of blood splattered on the seat next to him and blood on his head; Danny has bloody cuts on her face and blood running from her nose after a fight she has with a hitman. We see smaller, dried versions of these cuts on her face for most of the rest of the film; Danny dumps a handful of slightly bloody teeth into Henry's hand after she interrogated the hitman; Henry has bloody abrasions on his arms and side of his face and neck after falling off his motorcycle; We see Junior with a large, slightly bloody abrasion on his back as Clay cleans it for him; We see Danny briefly helping to clean and sew a wound on Henry's arm; We see a catacomb with lots and lots of skulls and bones of dead people; A man sticks a knife into another's bicep and we briefly see this. He then holds up a bloody microchip; A person is shot in the leg and we see them tie up their leg which is soaked in blood (it just looks wet because their pants are already dark)
. Violence: We see Henry shoot into a moving train to kill a man. We later see phone video footage of people running around in a panic after this happened. We also see some of the bloody aftermath; We see some tactical team members attacking and killing people. Henry takes out a squad at his house by shooting them down dead; Danny fights off one of these guys in a pretty brutal hand-to-hand fight; We see a man and woman get taken out and dumped off a boat into water. This transitions into a nightmare Henry is having of a memory of his childhood where he feared drowning; A man is murdered off screen while on the phone with Henry; Two men engage in a heated chase through city streets and across rooftops on motorcycles. At one point, one throws a grenade at the other which causes an explosion. They shoot at each other and engage in fist-fights. One knocks the other off a motorcycle and then hits him in the face with the wheel of their motorcycle. The man being attacked gets thrown over a car and jumps to narrowly miss getting hit by the motorcycle again; We see characters having wounds being cleaned or stitched up; A woman is gagged and tied up; Two men have a violent fight underground that ends in a pool of water with one of them getting shot in the shoulder; A man uses a knife to cut a chip out of another man's arm; A van is blown up by a missile, killing someone inside; Henry and Danny shoot up some tactical soldiers. There is more fighting and explosions; A masked soldier uses martial arts while attacking a couple of people. He is shot in the head multiple times with grenades from a grenade launcher and is doused in fire. He eventually dies from injuries we do not see; A character is shot in the face with a shotgun, but we don't see anything graphic, just the body flying backward; And other action violence.


Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.

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