If you like Will Smith, “Gemini Man” certainly gives you its fair share of him, both as he presently appears and as he would look as a younger clone of himself … which those who have followed his career shouldn’t be too thrown by.
Under the direction of Oscar winner Ang Lee, of “Brokeback Mountain” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” fame, the story finds Smith playing an ultra-skilled assassin who decides his pace has slowed enough for him to get out of the killing game. Others aren’t happy about that, and to eliminate him, they send in the clone – and you basically end up with Smith fighting himself.
It can be fun to watch that kind of movie trickery, but that’s not all that makes up a film. One like this has to be especially careful with its logic, since it’s establishing its own brand of it, and missteps are easy to make. There are enough of those to make you go, “Huh?,” if you stop to think about it while the picture is still running, However, Smith, Lee and their colleagues likely hope you’ll be dazzled enough by the overall concept and the visuals not to think too much.
The always welcome Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays a fellow operative sent to keep watch over Smith, while Clive Owen gets a break from leading-man status and does a nice job being nasty as an agency boss. Benedict Wong also offers good work as a Smith ally whose skills come in handy.
Still, Smith is expectedly the big draw here, by design. Following his recent turn as the genie in the live-action “Aladdin,” he retains his rare brand of charisma that has served him so well in various genres, including this return to sci-fi after “I, Robot,” “I Am Legend” and – of course – the blockbuster “Independence Day.” There is only one Will Smith (despite there being two here), and that remains a bankable fact for studios.
At the same time, “Gemini Man” is an interesting switch for director Lee. He’s no stranger to action nor to visual trickery, as “Life of Pi” also proved, and he’s clearly on his game in terms of providing a slick-looking product. The catch is to have a script that also works on all burners, and the picture is only partially successful on that count (despite a writing team that includes “Game of Thrones” alum David Benioff).
Thematically, “Gemini Man” isn’t anything you haven’t seen before, but it does offer the technically unique sight of Will Smith vs. Will Smith. Spoiler alert: Will Smith wins.