GREG'S GRADE: D
This "de-aging" technology that's all the rage nowadays in the movies is a pretty cool concept, one that could extend careers by decades and opening up a whole new area of storytelling possibilities. But it's not quite where it needs to be to build an entire film around it.
So while the character called Junior in "Gemini Man" certainly looks like Will Smith circa 30 years ago, there's something creepy and inhuman about him — his face too smooth and free of expression, his voice artificially raised to a higher pitch than Smith's deep, familiar tone. Combine that with action set pieces that make frequent use of unconvincing CGI rather than practical stunts and it's hard to believe anything on the screen, even if you buy into the sci-fi premise.
Smith, carrying every bit of his 51 years, is Henry Brogan, an expert sniper for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. He's the best, with 72 kills, capable of making virtually any shot. All that killing is catching up to him, though, and he just wants to retire.
Of course, it can't be as simple as that. When Henry learns from an old associate that his last job may not have been on the up and up, people within the DIA — including Clay Verris (Clive Owen, who might as well have "EVIL" stamped on his forehead from the moment he first opens his mouth), head of a black ops unit called Gemini — decide Henry must be eliminated.
After the initial team sent to do the deed fails, and Henry goes on the run with DIA Agent Danny Zakarweski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and an old Marine Corps buddy (Benedict Wong), Verris sends Junior, a clone of Henry who he raised as a son in secret, on his trail. (If this sounds familiar, you might be thinking of "Looper," a far better film from 2012 in which a man, played by Bruce Willis, is sent back in time to be killed by his younger self, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.)
The script — credited to David Benioff, Billy Ray and Darren Lemke — is full of plot holes, predictable dialogue and characters who seemingly are killed off or clumsily written out when the movie no longer has use for them. (The writers do, at least, acknowledge the age difference between Smith and Winstead, and avoid a forced, cliched love story.)
The sloppy, borderline incoherent action scenes are a greater offense. It's kind of shocking to say that about a movie directed by Ang Lee, the man who staged action with such poetic grace and beauty in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (2000). He clearly is more at home with wires than green screens. The technology seems to overwhelm him — and everything else — in "Gemini Man." Having the means to do something doesn't always mean it should be done.
Rated PG-13 for violence and action throughout, and brief strong language. 117 minutes.
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