MOVIE REVIEW OF ”GEMINI MAN”

If you missed the trailers for Will Smith’s futuristic nail-biter “Gemini Man” (** OUT OF ****), then the surprise about an hour into this globe-trotting, stunt-laden saga might surprise you.  Had you seen the trailers, you’d know what was in store, so it isn’t quite the revelation it might have been.

You’d think Paramount Pictures would have been more circumspect about this grand slam of a spoiler.  Whatever the case, either cease reading or forever grind your teeth.  A heavy-handed, formulaic melodrama, “Gemini Man” concerns cloning and killing humans without scruples.

Specifically, an older as well as a younger Will Smith dodge each other’s bullets in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” director Ang Lee’s fifteenth film.  The CGI version of the younger Will Smith, appropriately christened Junior, is impeccable.

Further, the “Men in Black” star betrays no signs of acting with a CGI double.  According to the Internet Movie Database, “Goosebumps’” scribe Darren Lemke’s clone versus human screenplay made the rounds about 20 years ago in Tinseltown before “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” writer David Benioff and “Overlord’s” Billy Ray most recently rewrote it!

Reportedly, over time, actors such as Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Sean Connery, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Brad Pitt, and Tom Cruise had been approached to star in this movie.  Sadly, the CGI technology available then was not deemed practical.

Meanwhile, you may have seen one, if not all three films about older men battling their younger clones.  Among them was the 2001 Jean-Claude Van Damme thriller “Replicant,” the tenth Trek movie “Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002), and Hugh Jackson’s final X-Men epic “Logan” (2017).  Half of the problem with “Gemini Man” is it takes itself far too seriously when you consider all its bizarre elements.

The best U.S. Government assassin decides to retire before he gets retired.  No sooner has our patriotic protagonist, Henry Brogan (Will Smith of “Suicide Squad”), stowed his hardware than he finds lead swarming around him like hornets.  Moreover, the guy ordered to ice Henry resembles him!

In “Gemini Man’s” only memorable scene, director Ang Lee orchestrates a swerving, adrenaline-laced motorcycle chase with the assailant in hot pursuit of the hero through traffic on a winding two-lane street.  The younger Smith smacks around the older Smith with his stolen motorcycle’s rear tire, as if he were smacking him with both sides of his hand back and forth in rapid succession.

Afterward, the assailant propels the whole motorcycle at him, and the bike knocks Henry down!  Meantime, everything else appears routine in their cat & mouse maneuvers when they tangle each other in various foreign locales.  Perhaps the most unforgettable moment in “Gemini Man” is the groan-inducing final surprise near fadeout.

Clearly, Will Smith dreads the encroachment of middle age, but he should fear more the quality of his films.  “Gemini Man” suffers by comparison with director Tony Scott’s “Enemy of the State” (1998), an earlier exercise in espionage that Smith toplined.

“Gemini Man” opens with a suspenseful blast in sunny Belgium.  Henry Brogan calculates the shot of a lifetime at a bullet train as it streaks through the countryside like a lightning-fast mechanical worm.  The target on the train sitting next to the window is supposed to be a biochemist, Valery Dormov (Igor Szasz of “Trezor”), who has turned terrorist.  Brogan’s spotter aboard the train, Marino (E.J. Bonilla of “Mamitas”), provides Henry with all the statistics crucial to his shot.

At the last moment, a child enters our hero’s line of fire, and Henry waits patiently as the seconds elapse before the train streaks into a tunnel.  Nevertheless, once the girl is clear, Henry nails the rogue biochemist with a spectacular shot.  No, he doesn’t obliterate his brains.  Instead, his bullet skewers Dormov’s neck and kills him!

The experience leaves a bad taste in Henry’s mouth, and he worries that his 73rd kill may be a hint for him to quit.  Later, one of his old pals from his Marine Corps days, Jack Willis (Douglas Hodge of “Red Sparrow”), invites him out to his yacht and reveals the biochemist’s real identity to Henry.  More to his surprise than our surprise, Henry discovers he had been duped about the identity of his target.

Naturally, our hero hates it that his own people lied to him.  Initially, he reprimands his go-between contact, Del Patterson (Ralph Brown of “Amistad”), about the biochemist’s falsified dossier. Patterson proclaims his innocence.  Now, Henry ponders the possibility his superior, Janet Lassiter (Linda Emond of “Across the Universe”), has double-crossed him.

Now, he starts looking over his shoulder.  What Henry doesn’t know is he is in the crosshairs of a dastardly private contractor, Clay Varris (Clive Owen of “Killer Elite”), who runs a top-secret black ops unit codenamed “GEMINI.”  Earlier, Varris killed Henry once when he drowned him, but he managed to revive Henry with a defibrillator.

“Gemini Man” amounts to just another paranoid assassin whose bosses refuses to let him quit without a frontal lobotomy with lead.  Along the way, Henry picks up a friend and a cohort in the marina’s boat rental manager.  Danny Zakarweski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”) poses as a college marine biology student.

Actually, she is an undercover Defense Intelligence Agency operative who eventually breaks down under Henry’s relentless interrogation.  She is surprised when she finds herself tagged to be eliminated, too!  Happily, Danny is one tough cookie, and she handles firearms as skillfully as a majorette twirls a baton. “Gemini Man” plunges down a predictable path from fade in to fade out.

You can guess what’s going to happen before it occurs.  You know the hero is neither going to die, nor will he cap his clone with extreme prejudice.  Apart from an abrasive motorcycle chase, the camaraderie between Henry and Danny keeps things energetic.

They make a good team as they think their way into a predicament and then shoot their way out of it.  Unfortunately, “Gemini Man” boils down to a conventional second-rate thriller with a contrived gimmick.

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