Will Smith, once the biggest movie star in the world, has had a rough go of it for the last decade-plus. Aside from Focus and Men in Black 3, it's been one disastrous star turn after another. But there's always been hope that his next project will be the one to return him to his box office glory, that his next movie will use his gifts properly and remind us all why he was so beloved. Well, the good news is that Gemini Man is not a disaster. But the bad news is it's still kind of a mess, and another questionable choice for the former Fresh Prince.
Smith plays Henry, a long-time assassin looking to hang up his rifle for good. He's barely even gotten a chance to enjoy some fishing when a former colleague tips him off that his last hit was a loose end in the Gemini project, not a terrorist. And now that he knows, his former handler Clay (Clive Owen) orders that Henry and everyone associated with him has to be taken out. On the run in different exotic locales, Clay dispatches Junior, a younger, more agile clone of Henry. The film tries to hold onto this reveal for as long as possible, which makes it anti-climactic, since every single piece of marketing has already given this away.
The de-aging effects mostly work, as long as Junior isn't doing much talking. (It's the lips that aren't quite perfect.) When Junior has a breakdown in Clay's office, Smith is doing some of his best acting. But it's undercut by the not-quite-seamless effects. Otherwise, the big action setpieces work extremely well. When Smith is chasing himself on a motorcycle through crowded Colombian streets, or fighting himself in the catacombs under Budapest, it's thrilling. But when it gets bogged down in exposition or misguided attempts at profundity, it's deathly dull.
Much has been made about Ang Lee's further attempts with 120fps projection and breakthroughs in 3-D technology. Alas, the screening I attended did not offer this, and only a handful of theaters in the country are even equipped to display the film as intended. But I can say that if you go to a theater that actually cares about presentation, you'll be treated to a pristine, colorful image. That's a nice alternative to the many drab superhero movies that are filmed only on green screen stages or cavernous warehouses. The film's use of practical locations (or at least tactile recreations) counts for something.
Seeing this in optimal conditions – a crisp digital presentation and excellent sound – might be enough for people to feel like it's 1999 again, making Gemini Man one of the big popcorn movies of a bygone era. It wasn't quite enough for me, even with two Wills for the price of one.