Saturday, October 12, 2019

Gemini Man – good special effects, but the plot needs lifesaving surgery (in cinemas from 10 October)

The premise of Gemini Man is hopeful. An American sniper executes his 72nd victim. His suspicionometer is turned up to eleven so he soon discovers that at 51, the natural retirement age for an assassin, he’s become the next target of shady US government agencies. But he needs his accomplices to help him realise that he is being pursued by someone with very familiar skills.

Will Smith is on steady ground playing Henry Brogan as an action hero, as capable of jumping on a scrambler bike and racing through narrow streets as he is picking up and accurately firing any gun to hand. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Danny, an surveillance agent who joins him on the run and proves handy in a gun fight, but is suffocated in protection and only occasionally allowed to exercise her brain. Meanwhile Clive Owen is the evil Clay Verris, whose rogue private army will have to be conveniently shut down by the end of the film.

The dialogue is both clichéd and clunky: “If you get on this boat you’re leaving behind everything and everyone you’ve ever known”. The camerawork is full of long-running shots and facial close-ups ideal for the 3D version of Gemini Man, shot by director Ang Lee in supersmooth 120fps (though you’ll not find many cinemas capable of showing that cut) but giving the film a strange feel in 2D.

The special effects are good, but the ending is much too neat. For a film that’s been in development for 20 years waiting for the de-aging technology to catch up, I can’t help wish that they’d waited another five years to figure out a better plot. The first half of the film could be saved, but the final hour needs a major organ transplant to replace parts of the story and locations (eg, Hungarian catacombs) that just don’t work. And the hand-wavy explanations of human cloning are farcical.

Gemini Man opened in UK and Irish cinemas on Thursday 10 October. Will Smith’s name on the poster will be the only thing keeping this film at cinemas next weekend.

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