Technical wizardry provides the centerpiece of “Gemini Man,” a movie whose most kinetic moments approximate a first-person videogame, while giving Will Smith the opportunity to battle himself. Those flourishes, however, come at the expense of story, yielding a movie that emphasizes its experiential and 3D qualities but lacks depth on every other front.
Director Ang Lee has an eclectic resume (“Brokeback Mountain,” “The Life of Pi”), but it includes experimenting with the number of frames per second in his last movie, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.” Here, he again shoots at 120 frames per second – compared to the traditional 24 FPS – and in 4K 3D, which does produce enough depth to justify putting on those glasses over one’s own.
Conceptually, “Gemini Man” is basically just another variation on the Jason Bourne formula, casting Smith as Henry Brogan, a government operative/assassin who – after dozens of missions and assignments – decides to hang up his guns.
Alas, Henry inadvertently becomes privy to some information he shouldn’t know, putting him in the crosshairs of his one-time handlers, under the stewardship of the ruthless Clay Verris (Clive Owen). His secretive Gemini project will eventually be employed to neutralize Henry, who is forced to go on the run with allies played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Benedict Wong.
Verris boasts that he has “the perfect asset” for the job, which is, of course, a younger version of Henry. While the process has improved from, say, “Tron: Legacy” days, there’s still a slightly distracting aspect to the rendering that makes this prince look not so fresh, but rather sporadically vacant.
Like the “Bourne” franchise, there’s a fair amount of globetrotting and an emphasis on visceral action. That includes, at its best, a motorcycle chase and fight, which frequently puts the audience squarely in the midst of the encounter.
Technically speaking, the 3D imagery is especially good, suggesting that’s definitely the way to go for those who opt to see the film. Still, the visuals don’t represent such a marked leap forward to fully compensate for a movie that’s dramatically limp and occasionally clunky, starting with the manner in which this top-secret program has been developed and deployed.
Smith has been around this block a few times, and he’s perfectly fine in anchoring the mayhem. But his older character’s regrets and war-weary demeanor have such a familiar quality that it’s tough to bring much spark to what amount to the lulls between roaring engines and rat-a-tat firefights.
There is, obviously, an established genre of check-your-brain-at-the-door action movies – one with which the film’s producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, is well acquainted – as well as an ongoing process of exploring ways to create movie-going experiences capable of jogging audiences out of their complacency about waiting to watch films on TV.
“Gemini Man” succeeds mildly on that latter score, but has seemingly embraced those qualities while giving short shrift to more conventional ones. In that regard, a movie distinguished by its 3D and FPS format is, otherwise, pretty one-dimensional.
“Gemini Man” premieres Oct. 11 in the US. It’s rated PG-13.