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Oct 13 2019

Review: Gemini Man

by Tony Ruggio

We live in a polarizing world,a place of right or left,love or hate.In the age of the internet,if you want to be noticed,if you want to be included,not ignored,you take a side.No one wants to wail aboutboththe good and the bad and find themselves alone on an island.They want to see the good or see the bad and say to everyone "god is good"or "god is awful."

I don't believe in astrology or zodiac signs but Geminis supposedly have dual personalities,an ability to harbor two different points of view simultaneously.Coincidence or not,I'm a Gemini.I find myself witnessing most debates from the middle of love and hate,from geopolitical quagmires to frivolous media circuses to the movies.

Film criticism oftensuccumbs to group-think,and the need to deify or decry a particular movie.Following in the footsteps ofJoker,Gemini Manis the latest victim of such...

It's a technical marvel that proves Ang Lee right for experimenting with high frame rate 3D at 120 fps (although most theaters are only capable of projecting at 60 fps).Old hat hit-man plot in tact,Geminimanages to wow in spite of itself.It's not the disaster you've been hearing about,but it's not going to revolutionize blockbuster filmmaking either.

It's a tropey rope of a movie that doesn't lead you on to believe there's more to it than old Will Smith versus young Will Smith.There's a bit of government gone rogue drama via Clive Owen's clever head of the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) clone program but it's mostly Will vs Will.It's a simple,linear story about a man confronting his past self,his former self,the man who ate,drank,and slept murder for the man up top.The point A to point B narrative is actually refreshing.

Smith is in full movie star mode here,embracing his more weathered action bonafides as Henry Brogan.As his younger clone,he can cry and pout like the best of ‘em.Smith has given better performances and that's okay,because the star of the movie isn't Smith,nor the de-aging effects that are quickly becoming de rigueur in Hollywood.The star is Ang's high frame rate experiment.I'm the first to cry foul when the older folks turn on the TV at Thanksgiving and I see motion-smoothing galore.I hate it and believe it to be anti-cinema in some ways.Somehow,despite it amounting to motion-smoothing for the big screen,Ang has made me a believer in HFR 3D,at least for action films.

Be it the frame rate or Lee's considerable gifts,HFR appears to enhance the three-dimensional experience,further deepening depth of field and adding a visceral clarity to the fight scenes.One extended sequence,when young and old first meet,follows their tete-a-tete from a shootout in a house to a breathtaking motorcycle chase through Budapest.The impression is immediate,and suddenly Ang doesn't seem so crazy,nor Peter Jackson or James Cameron (there's been talk of HFR being used for theAvatar sequels).The one drawback is the occasional CGI is less-than-believable,a problem inherent to high frame rates and motion smoothing.Regardless,young Willie's de-aging is nearly perfect throughout,with the exception of the first and last time we see him,which happen to be the most critical junctures for leaving a good impression.

Gemini Mansuffers from predictability and pedestrian dialogue.Dull one-on-one shot/reverse shot conversations are much less palatable at 60 fps,though Smith has an easy-going chemistry with Mary Winstead and Benedict Wong,making it bearable.It's a good thing Ang Lee made an action film,and one where hand-to-hand combat isn't shucked aside for fiery theatrics.As long as everything on screen is tactile,the experiment pays off.They used to say 3D was like looking through a window,and it was rarely true.It's true withGemini Man,where the format enhances and illuminates instead of annoys or induces a splitting headache.

I have a habit of commenting on commentary,of getting preoccupied with picking apart media narratives,social,news,or otherwise.With America burning and the news media more important than ever,I don't want to do that on the political stage.Movies are less dire,however,and so it must be said that film punditry and criticism cannot and should not conform to the whims of current hot-take trends.There's not a thin line between love and hate,there's a vast in-between,and more critics should remember it's there.Gemini Manis not a bad movie.It's one of the many films in between.  Grade:B-

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Reader Comments (3)

No,I'm not convinced that this HFR gimmick will change things.If it doesn't do anything to help the story,then what's the fucking point of having that bullshit to begin with.

October 13,2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Nicely written review.I went to see this on Friday despite its 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (my AMC A List membership makes it easier to take chances on questionable films),and came away pleasantly surprised.It is an enjoyable popcorn film not to be confused with a great film.Will Smith is good in the role and the chemistry with the supporting players of Mary Elizabeth WInstead and Benedict Wong is strong and keeps the film light.The action sequences in Cartagena are quite gripping and well done.

To a degree,I understand the negativity from the critics.Ang Lee has given us so much more in the past and hopefully just taken a detour from making great films.The plot gets murkier the deeper they get into the film,and the entire cloning theme is very hokey and the graphics around the younger Will Smith are not great.But it's true,a film can be both good and bad.
I saw it in 3D HFR and liked it.I can see it being used more effectively going forward and bringing an extra element to certain action films.This film is worth checking out,just know it is not Oscar worthy,but has cool elements.

October 13,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMike C

Mike C: I kind of think this high frame rate gimmick is going to add more to HORROR stuff (and even then,only occasionally) than to action stuff.A Nightmare on Elm Street revival with a dream sequence with a slowly raising framerate?THAT'S how you use this effectively.

October 13,2019 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

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