TITLE: Gemini Man
DIRECTOR: Ang Lee
SCREENWRITER: David Benioff, Billy Ray, Darren Lemke
STARS: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong
RUNTIME: 117 minutes
CINEMATIC RELEASE DATES: Australia (10th October 2019), UK (10th October 2019), Thailand (14th November 2019), USA (11th October 2019)
HOME ENTERTAINMENT RELEASE DATES: Australia (TBA)
CLASSIFICATIONS: Australia (M), Thailand (15), UK (12A), USA (PG-13)
Know your limits! It is the kind of thing that would expect to say to a first time director who wants to bury themselves in an overly-ambitious cinematic project that is destined to fail. It is hardly the kind of thing that you would think a studio or producer would have to tell an experienced, Oscar winning director like Ang Lee.
As far as filmmaking goes Lee has always been someone that has never been afraid to push the envelope. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon saw him bring Asian cinema to the American mainstream, while Brokeback Mountain tackled taboo topics in such a way it once again showed why cinema plays an important part in opening up discussions in society. Then there was Life Of Pi – a film which used CGI in a way that no other director had ever dared to imagine.
Therefore it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise when it was announced that Lee’s new film Gemini Man would once again attempt to use cutting edge technology to bring its audience something new and fresh. The technology that Lee decided to use saw the film shot digitally at an extra-high frame rate of 120 frames per second and then modified to 3D. Lee thought the finished product would make audiences feel like they were standing right there amongst the action, instead what has been delivered is a film that is such a terrible cinematic experience it is on par with M. Night Shyamalan’s fall with grace when he helmed the ill-fated The Last Airbender.
When it comes to plot Gemini Man is made up of a story that action heroes like Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger would have fallen over themselves to be involved with back in the 1990s. Will Smith plays Henry Brogan one of the Government’s top hitmen. After a hit becomes too close for comfort for Brogan he decides to retire but when he learns a painful secret about his career he suddenly finds another agent, Danny Zakarweski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), is sent to kill him. Then after explaining to her that she is mistaken an even deadlier enemy arrives to finish off the job –a clone of Brogan’s younger self.
With a plot a lot like that you could easily imagine a film that could well deliver an intense exploration of a topic like cloning while delivering all the suspense of a big action blockbuster, sadly though Gemini Man just doesn’t deliver at all. First of all it looks bad. You may remember that this type of extra-high frame rate film technique failed miserable when it was trialled on The Lord Of The Rings franchise and here it does exactly the same thing for exactly the same reason. The problem is it leaves the image way too clear, that results in a sun-drenched look that you would normally see on a television soap like The Bold And The Beautiful. And while some may say that yes that does make the audience feel part of the action that crystal clear vision also means that the filmmaker can no longer ‘hide’ all the magic of cinema. Suddenly fake blood is identifiable as fake blood and as we see here a stunt-man filling in for Will Smith is forced to cover his face in an absolutely ludicrous way so the audience can’t tell that he isn’t Smith. Yes, for the motorcycle sequence you will be gasping in wonder but for the rest of the film you will be groaning with disappointment.
If the visual aspects of Gemini Man doesn’t have you groaning I can guarantee that some of the cheesy lines and woeful dialogue certainly will. There is a scene in this film between Danny, Brogan and the clone where the dialogue is so bad that you would swear that it had been lifted from some terrible family soap opera. Then there is the cheesy dialogue throughout the film that feels like the screenwriter was desperate to try and deliver a catch-phrase but fails miserable. Hearing Brogan declare that he is from Philadelphia as he gives his life story does for once get the audience to laugh, but for all the wrong reasons as they recall the lyrics that Smith sang during the title credits of The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air.
It is easy to see that what Ang Lee wanted to deliver with Gemini Man was an action film that went down in history for changing the face of cinema, what he has created though is a film so bad that it is likely to become a cult classic for the same reason The Room has become a must-see film – a film that shows young filmmakers how to make a film and has them laughing at the film from start to finish. Perhaps one day a filmmaker will take a look at something as serious as cloning in a way that can open up discussion for the audience but Gemini Man certainly isn’t that film. Like Ang Lee Will Smith rarely delivers a flop but somehow them working together has resulted in one of the worst films of the year.