Gemini Man Cert 12A, 1hr 57mins
On paper, Gemini Man sounds like exactly the sort of film that is often described as ‘high concept’. A brilliant but ageing hitman finds himself being ruthlessly hunted down by a younger, fitter cloned version of himself?
Wow! I mean, it’s Looper meets Jason Bourne, isn’t it? RoboCop crossed with Universal Soldier.
Up on the big screen, however, there’s nothing remotely ‘high concept’ about this deeply disappointing Will Smith thriller. It’s all decidedly ‘low road’ when it comes to the delivery, with most of the budget apparently blown on visual effects that allow Smith to be digitally ‘de-aged’ by 30 years to play his younger self.
It’s all decidedly ‘low road’ when it comes to the delivery, with most of the budget apparently blown on visual effects that allow Will Smith (above) to be digitally ‘de-aged’ by 30 years
Yes, the Fresh Prince – Smith’s alter ego from the Eighties and Nineties – is magically back.
The problems all start with the decision of director Ang Lee to shoot the whole thing in something called high-frame-rate 3D. That’s essentially the same technology that made Peter Jackson’s first instalment of The Hobbit look like cheap television, and the same format Lee used for his last film, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.
But that was a commercial disaster, and it will require all Smith’s legendary clout at the box office to avoid this going the same way.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead (above with Smith) is decent enough as the pretty but, these days, far-too-young- to-be-the-romantic-interest former DIA agent who comes along for the ride
Because if The Hobbit looked like cheap TV, the higher frame rate that Lee uses here has an even more damaging effect.
Yes, the clarity is astonishing and the 3D top-notch, but the overall effect is almost too real. The magic of the big screen – the cinematic style and artifice, if you like – is rudely stripped away, leaving us with something where you can almost see the acting going on.
The visuals are so real that anything fake – like pretending to be someone you’re not, ie acting, or digitally created ‘visual’ effects – stand out a mile. Proponents of the new technology say our visual expectations of what a film is supposed to look like will gradually change, and they may conceivably be right.
Smith is actually better playing his deadly younger self, Junior, than he is as Henry Brogan, a middle-aged assassin whose conscience is catching up with him after 72 kills
If they are, a whole new style of film acting is going to need to evolve too. But until it does, I’d play safe and go and see this in normal 2D if you can.
Even then, you’re unlikely to be particularly impressed. This, after all, is a story idea that has been around since 1997, when the notion of a cloned hitman was still fresh and new.
More than two decades and umpteen clone- featuring films later, that’s definitely no longer the case.
Even so, the screenplay – written by a three-man team that includes Game Of Thrones co-creator David Benioff – is astonishingly lacklustre. Characterisation is minimal and big moments, such as when Smith’s character finally discovers he’s fighting his own clone, are tossed away in an entirely pedestrian manner.
IT’S A FACT
Like Arnie’s ‘I’ll be back’ catchphrase, Will Smith manages to get the line ‘Aw hell, no!’ into all his movies.
Lee, whose genre-hopping glory days of Sense And Sensibility, Life Of Pi and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are beginning to feel a long time ago, should have spotted the problem but fails to act.
Whether you see it in 3D or 2D, this is a film that always feels flat.
Smith is actually better playing his deadly younger self, Junior, than he is as Henry Brogan, a middle-aged assassin whose conscience is catching up with him after 72 kills. ‘I find myself avoiding mirrors these days,’ he growls predictably.
But when the 73rd hit goes horribly wrong, his plans for retirement have to be put on hold, as he finds himself being pursued first by the Defense Intelligence Agency and then by the mysterious Gemini Corporation, run by the reliably sinister Clive Owen.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is decent enough as the pretty but, these days, far-too-young- to-be-the-romantic-interest former DIA agent who comes along for the ride and even gets her own fight scene.
But like far too much here, in a film that even has recent echoes of Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, it feels as if we’re just going through the film-making motions – and not very convincing motions at that.
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