By John H. Foote
Ang Lee is a great filmmaker
No one will argue that point. With two Academy Awards for Best Director, Lee has been The toast of Hollywood more than once, with his films Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), Sense and Sensibility (1995), The Ice Storm (1997), the underrated Ride with the Devil 1999), Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000), the astonishing Brokeback Mountain (2005), Lust Caution (2007), another under appreciated film, Taking Woodstock (2009) and Life of Pi (2012), Lee has proven his cinematic gifts time after time. Yet when given big budget, huge studio films, like Hulk (2001), Billy Lyman’s Long Halftime Walk (2017) and this latest, Gemini Man, he falters. No let us be honest, he fails, miserably.
Lee is a humanist and at his best when exploring films about humanity. He does not have to celebrate mankind, The Ice Storm does not, but he is at his best when being honest about humanity.
Gemini Man says nothing about humanity.
It says nothing much at all.
Gemini Man is given away in the barrage of trailers we have had the past few weeks, a hitman, portrayed by Will Smith is be hunted by a clone of himself, a younger version. There is little more anyone needs to know than that, because that is your narrative.
At 51, hitman Henry Brogan (Will Smith) thinks it is time to retire. His conscience is eating away at him and after 72 kills he is done. He just wants to build bird houses in Georgia. But Henry finds he cannot retire because the powers that be at the Gemini Corporation have sent a hitman after him to silence him. And not just any hitman, no, they send a clone of Henry, created from his very own DNA 25 years before, trained personally by CEO Clay (Clive Owen) to be a remorseless killing machine. Face to face the two Henry’s come and are more than shocked. Jr. is a zombie like version of Henry, with all the talents and ferocity.
The plot if filled with holes, I mean was anyone surprised that a company called Gemini was NOT into cloning? And does Henry look old enough to retire? I get he works for a great amount of money, but Smith looks thirty, not 51. And I am just getting started.
Smith is a great actor but needs to tackle a role that reminds us of that. Ali (2001) was a long time ago, and The Pursuit of Happiness (2006) has faded from memory. The actor is a huge movie star to be sure but has always been a gifted actor. Right now he needs a film to challenge him as an actor, not an action flick.
And to be fair, the action if kind of dull, sort of a been there done that.
The actors with Smith have little to do. Owen is a slimy villain and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, so talented, is wasted. Neither has much to do other than scratch the surface of a character not there. Wasted.
Kind of like the nearly two hours I spent watching this mess. Such a huge waste of time.
One of Canada’s best-known film critics, he spent 10 years on TV as co-host of Reel to Real, and another 10 in education (still writing as a critic) as Director of the Toronto Film School, where he created the curriculum for three programs and taught film history. Film has always been his passion. He has written for magazines such as Toronto Life, Fashion and Hollywood North, been quoted in the Los Angeles and New York Times, as well as the major Toronto dailies. Online he has written for such sites as The Wrap, In Contention, Awards Circuit and The Cinemaholic. His first book Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker, was published in 2010. His second Steven Spielberg: American Film Visionary, a massive volume, has just found a publisher and he’s working on American Film Renaissance – 1967-2018 with Nick Maylor. As a critic, he has had the good fortune to interview directors and stars such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Emma Stone, Jane Fonda, and countless others. As he quips, “Everyone but Jack Nicholson!”