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.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.