Gemini Man (Ang Lee, 2019) 1½ out of 4 stars.
Cautious optimism is the phrase I would use to describe the feeling that rumbles in my gut whenever a new film from either Ang Lee or Will Smith is released. Like every artist, these two men have had their iconic peaks of influence and their embarrassing slumps of questionable judgment. Trust me when I say that when I heard the news of their collaboration for this year’s Gemini Man, a film that has been in production hell since the late 1990s, that gut feeling of mine double, double-toiled and troubled like a witch’s cauldron.
Smith plays retiring assassin Henry Brogan. Brogan plans to leave his life as a contract killer with over 70 confirmed kills under his belt and a debilitating case of insomnia. The man wants to be left alone, but he’s suddenly thrust back into the game when it seems his own government is out to retire him for good when he discovers that the assassin hired to kill him is his younger self. Ang Lee, as usual, embeds a degree of artistic flare not normally expected in the genre he’s working in. Gemini Man boasts fleeting moments of gorgeous cinematography and inspired action sequences, but the movie is still responsible for flat characterization and unbearably drawn-out scenes of exposition.
The script was written by three writers, all with different ideas of where the story should go. At moments, the characters gleefully spew out cheesy one-liners that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone roll their eyes, but then the very next scene will have Clive Owen and Will Smith give self-serious speeches about the ethics of human cloning and private militaries. No matter how undeserving Gemini Man is to have Ang Lee at the helm, Lee’s striking visual style is the only thing that kept me glued to my seat. For now, I must shake off the disappointment and await that gut feeling to return to get my hopes up a little too high again.