First and foremost, it’s nice to see Henry Cavill’s poorly CGI-ed upper lip from Justice League get more work!
Seriously, how does a movie that hinges entirely on a de-aging special effect—which we’ve seen done incredibly well as recently as this year’s Captain Marvel—do such a profoundly bad job at that one specific thing? Cramming peanut butter into a horse’s mouth to make Mr. Ed talk produced more believable speaking than watching the mouth of a young Will Smith clone twitch and jitter. It is uniquely horrifying to watch, which makes it the only original thing in the entirety of Gemini Man.
Henry Brogan (Smith) is a government black ops dude who is, like, really good at shooting people. We know this because he is introduced sniping a dude on a moving train from something like four states away. Does he have super powers? Unless being an orphan or a 51-year-old virgin—something suggested in the film twice—grants you fantastic murder abilities, nah. He’s just the baddest dude to ever kill for ‘Merica, despite the fact that he couldn’t Wick John’s boots.
Henry is about to retire. We know this without him saying it because, and this is 100% true, we see him at (1) a remote log cabin, (2) hanging up a bird feeder, (3) in front of a group of banzai trees he presumably trimmed. This is the level of nuance writers David Benioff, Billy Ray, and Darren Lemke are working with here: no cliché is worth using unless you can triple its stupidity. When the generically evil Clay Verris—played by an at-best semiconscious Clive Owen—catches wind of Henry swearin’ off the killin’, he dispatches a young, brainwashed clone he made of Henry to kill him.
Henry, his buddy Baron (Benedict Wong), and a young government agent accidentally caught up in the fuss, Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), escape together. Then they alternatively chase and get chased by Henry’s clone and Verris. It cannot be stressed enough how much of this alleged action movie involves plane rides between locations and the phrase “I just need to talk to him.” This isn’t a nonstop thrill-ride so much as a series of stunningly wretched dialogues riddled with the exact kind of dialogue you would expect from one of the guys who wrote the final season of Game of Thrones.
Gemini Man longs to be a throwback to 90s-era popcorn nonsense like The Rock and Face/Off. It just entirely forgets that those were, you know, “fun.” Everything in Gemini Man is so self-serious that it’s like nobody bothered to actually read the script, which is an unintentional laugh riot. While that was probably a good move in terms of brain cell preservation, it was maybe not a great strategy for filmmaking.
Speaking of filmmaking, Ang Lee is an exceptional director whose skill here is used like a surgeon playing a claw machine filled with T-shirts bearing fart jokes. Literally, the only thing that Gemini Man has going for it is the fact that it is mostly not morally reprehensible. In this, the worst possible timeline, that single fact prevents it from being the worst film of the last few weeks.
Grade = D-