#REVIEW: “GEMINI MAN”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Please note: This review is for the 4K 24 FPS 2D version of the Film.
Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is an aging hitman who wants out of the game. Just as he decides to retire, Henry finds out that his handler lied about who his last target was. Now on the run with junior agent Danny Zakarweski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Henry must unravel and discover a government conspiracy while dodging a mysterious assassin – who just so happens to look like a much younger version of himself.
Having not seen Gemini Man in its intended format, I cannot comment on whether Oscar-winning Director Ang Lee succeeded on his second try with 120 frames per second or not (his first try was the not-so great Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk). But where the faster frame rate would have masked some of the Film’s problems, watching it in 24 FPS makes those issues jump-off the screen much like the digitally enhanced explosions. The backgrounds of many shots also tend to look completely artificial, no matter what is happening on-screen. But again, the Film was made in 120 FPS – so these effects would not look nearly as poorly-amplified if the frame rate was keeping up with them.
Where it would have become more interesting is in the Film’s action sequences. In 24 FPS, they are sped-up faster than the rest of the Film and look all but completely incomprehensible. A fight scene set in ancient catacombs is so dark and moves so quick that Winstead’s character literally shines a flashlight in the middle of it just so you can see what is happening. A breathless motorcycle chase is thrilling and pulse-pounding, while also acting as a blurry mess. But in 120 FPS, both of these moments likely looked smooth, crisp and hyper-real, much like Lee intended.
What he probably did not intend for was how dodgy the CGI looks like on Junior, the assassin chasing Henry. He is modeled after Smith from 25 years ago, and the resemblance is uncanny and incredibly-detailed when he is the only thing on screen. When any real character or item is on-screen interacting with him however, the effects looks downright awful. And while most of his scenes are set in the dark, the few that are in the daytime may go down as some of the worst and most distracting CGI of the decade.
And all of these issues might have been forgivable if the rest of Gemini Man was not just as messy. The nonsensical story is tonally jarring and never seems to land on a proper genre. Henry’s moral ambiguity is never really addressed and the true nature and motivations of the Film’s villain, played by a way too serious Clive Owen, are somehow explored even less. The Film seems to be missing large portions of the story and the abrupt ending seems to indicate there was a lot more going on than we are made privy to. Winstead and Benedict Wong are totally game for anything, but the Film only uses them as Plot Devices to help move Henry and Junior from location to location. And Smith genuinely gives the two-hander performance everything he’s got, but the rapid bi-polar tonal shifts betray any chance he has of shining through all the dreck around him.
There are hints of greatness buried deep within Gemini Man. Some moments are genuinely-intriguing, while others are laugh out loud bad. As a Film, it is deeply-flawed. But as a piece of experimental filmmaking, it continues to intrigue me. Maybe Lee’s third time shooting at 120 FPS will be the winning combination he needs.
Paramount Pictures Canada release GEMINI MAN on Friday, October 11, 2019.