If only they hadn’t given away most of the movie in the trailers.
If only Ang Lee hadn’t tried to conjure up an action film out of close-ups of indifferent actors — two of them Will Smith.
If only the digitally-augmented action beats weren’t so obvious — digital de-aging, physics-defying, unnatural, unsurvivable fights and chases, a parkour practitioner straight out of video game graphics.
If only the screenplay didn’t provide the perfect, pithy single sentence review of “Gemini Man.”
“It’s like The Hindenburg crashed into The Titanic!”
It’s a thriller about a hitman who hugs — everybody — a picture that skips from Belgium to Buttermilk Sound, Cartagena to Budapest. And it’s something of a digitally-augmented debacle.
Smith plays Henry Brogan, a supernaturally gifted government assassin who can hit a passenger in a hurtling bullet train from two kilometers away.
He’s just done his “one last job,” and shared a toast.
“To the next war, which is NO war.”
But that last job wasn’t what it seemed, and the people who run him send assassins after him. Brogan barely has time to grab his “blown bag” (bugout bag), fetch the fetching marina manager/agent “minder” (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and summon his pilot pal (Benedict Wong), who whisks them off to Cartagena.
The bad guys can find them there, because the baddest bad guy, a former boss (Clive Owen) has this mercenary operation, “Gemini,” that can get to anybody.
And his ace agent looks just like Brogan, only 28 years younger.
The digital process of taking that many years off Will Smith is good enough to pass muster, but makes for a more wooden performance. It’s the plainly animated running, fighting and racing a motorcycle that take you out of the picture.
Three credited credits screenwriters — two of whom have “Breach,” “Captain Phillips,” “Game of Thrones” and “The 25th Hour” in their credits — and all they could come up with was that “Titanic/Hindenburg” crash line, and a lot more generic junk like this.
“I need you to get to get me to Budapest!”
“What’s in Budapest?”
Apparently, the two acclaimed writers deferred to the dude with “Turbo” on his resume for most of the dialogue.
Lee, director of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Brokeback Mountain,” sees the picture in nurturing, protecting, parenting tones, which is why he went with so many closeups. The players have their strengths, but can’t find anything in their skillset to give this script that feel.
That adds up to a movie with a whole lot of running around, zero pathos, no romance — one of the many holes in Will Smith’s movie acting game — and a central conceit that’s given away in the trailers.
And that “crash?” Well, it’s something to see man.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and action throughout, and brief strong language.
Cast: Will Smith, Clive Owen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Credits: Directed by Ang Lee, script by David Benioff, Darren Lemke and Billy Ray. A Paramount release.
Running time: 1:57