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  Gemini Man Double The Big Willies
Year: 2019
Director: Ang Lee
Stars: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong, Douglas Hodge, Ralph Brown, Linda Edmond, Ilia Volok, E.J. Bonilla, Victor Hugo, David Shae, Theodora Miranne, Diego Adonye, Lilla Banak, Igor Szasz, Fernanda Dorogi, Alexandra Szucs
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is out in the Belgian countryside to watch a high-speed train go by, but more than that, as he sets up his sniper's rifle, he is there to kill someone. He is the best assassin the Defense Intelligence Agency have, but has been having second thoughts lately, his record amount of seventy-two kills preying on his mind, and when this particular hit almost results in tragedy as he narrowly misses a little girl with his bullet, he draws the conclusion he really should be calling it a day. When he tells his superiors this, they express dismay, as he will surely be irreplaceable, but he has not banked on their reluctance to allow him to live out the rest of his life in relative peace...

Gemini Man was an effects-filled science fiction thriller, packed with action, that sounded like a surefire success yet when it hit the box office, interest was nowhere near as high as the studio or the filmmakers had anticipated. There were possibly a few reasons for this, but the technology was blamed overall, since director Ang Lee had shot this in the highest frame rate he could and in 3D, all the better to render it as realistic-looking as possible, almost as if you could reach out and touch Smith. Yet it also lacked the gloss that film offered, and had commentators and audiences alike complaining that it looked like the people in charge of the behind the scenes featurette made it.

This begged the question, for an obviously fantastical effort like this, what was the point in going for pin-sharp realism when it would take the viewer out of the experience, not immerse them within it? Even the finest high concept notion was going to suffer from this treatment, and Gemini Man was afflicted with a very hackneyed premise indeed. It was a maxim that every science fiction television series featured an evil double episode, therefore building a whole movie around that was not as fresh as it sounded, especially when we were dropped in at the deep end rather than spend half a season getting to know characters who would be in dire peril for the following couple of hours.

Smith may have been a box office draw, but not when he was so humourless as he was here, barely cracking a joke from the beginning to the end, whereupon he lightened up just as the credits were rolling. What would have been better as a romp, not necessarily a comedy mind you, was bogged down in conversations about the ethics of cloning, as if manufacturing another Brogan would automatically gift the copy with the same abilities as a sniper and fighter as he had. The question of nature versus nurture was barely answered when according to this, someone with the same genes as you was essentially going to have all your personality traits, which hardly mattered in this fiction when Junior was approached as if he were Brogan's son, rather than another version of himself out to get him.

There was some business with Clive Owen as the evil boss being effectively Junior's foster father, so we were invited to see how much Junior would reject him and eventually accept his status as a son Brogan never knew he had, but it never seemed that much of a big deal when the plot was as artificial as the effects. Smith played his younger clone with the aid of not bad CGI, containing a novelty value that was merely in the service of distinctly average action sequences. That was odd to say, because every so often in those scenes would be a set-up which was obviously very expensive to produce for the graphics budget alone, yet the unexciting, past it feeling of everything else dragged even these innovations down. Mary Elizabeth Winstead showed up as the beyond generic "girl" role who was conservatively not allowed to get too romantic with Smith, and Benedict Wong was the comedy relief sidekick, but when you knew this started out as a property for Clint Eastwood to star, you would be less surprised at how old hat it was, no matter the dressing. Music by Lorne Balfe.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Ang Lee  (1954 - )

Taiwanese director who can handle emotional drama as effectively as action. The Wedding Banquet and Eat Drink Man Woman secured him international attention, and Jane Austen adaptation Sense and Sensibility and 1970s-set The Ice Storm were also well received. Epic western Ride with the Devil was a disappointment, but Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won four Oscars, including best foreign language film, and led him to direct flop blockbuster Hulk.

"Gay cowboy" yarn Brokeback Mountain proved there was a large market for gay films among straight audiences as well as homosexual, Lust, Caution pushed sexual barriers in the Chinese market, and he won his Oscar for the adaptation of the supposedly unfilmable Life of Pi. He began pushing at the boundaries of technology with Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and sci-fi actioner Gemini Man, but they were not hits.

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