Directed by: Ang Lee- Starring: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong
This film has seemingly been 20 years in the making, and has gone through numerous rewrites, potential stars, and directors, before falling into the hands of Ang Lee and Will Smith.
You’re not seeing things on the posters. Smith does indeed play two roles here, and remarkably, one of them is 30 years younger than he is.
He firstly plays Henry Brogan, a government assassin, who is jaded with the job and feels he’s past his best, so he decides to retire. However, he learns that not all of his targets were necessarily enemies of the state, and when he begins asking questions, he discovers that his agency’s retirement package isn’t that attractive, as they send an assassin to take him out.
Except there is something very familiar about this guy’s style, and when his friend and fellow disillusioned agent, Danny (Winstead) retrieves a DNA sample and has it tested, they realise that the man chasing them is actually Henry’s clone – but younger and faster than the ageing hitman.
It seems that Clay Varris (Owen) the head of GEMINI, a top-secret black ops unit, was so impressed with Henry’s work that he decided to create an army from his DNA, and this assassin, Junior, has been raised as his son. But blood, even cloned blood, is thicker than water, and Junior teams up with Henry to shut down the GEMINI project, once and for all.
It is somewhat discombobulating to see Smith acting opposite his younger self. Other than one or two wobbles, it really could be a 20 year-old Will starring opposite his 50 year old self. He gives a great performance, in both roles, with what is a pretty rudimentary script.
Owen is fantastic as the sinister Clay, and brings far more to the role than there would appear to be on the page. However, Winstead feels somewhat like the token female, and while it is wonderful to see them casting an actress over 25 in a role like this, they need to remember to actually give them something to do.
Perhaps because of its long development process, this feels more like an old-school action-flick, but with less character development and humour. One thing all the classic offerings had in common was that there was a lot of (intentional) laughs, and fantastic supporting characters that you enjoyed watching. By stripping this back to the bare minimum of cast, Lee is only helping to highlight the script weaknesses.
However, he is also experimenting with new technology, shooting this at a much higher frame rate than the norm. I won’t bore you with the science, but this is shot more akin to a computer game, and has a frame rate of 120fps, and like anything new, at times this is jarring. It also means that to get the full effect of the movie, you will need to find a cinema that can show this as he intended.
This is an odd film, because it’s definitely worth seeing for Will Smith’s chemistry and performance opposite ‘Will Smith’, but the subpar script would normally make it a no-no.
It’s not meh and it’s not amazing. When it’s good it’s very good, and when it doesn’t work it’s completely jarring. But if nothing else, you are witnessing the birth of a new cinematic technology, so it’s worth seeing to say you were there!
In Cinemas October 11th!