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Movie Review

Most of us would like to feel like we’re the best at something: The best lawyer in the state, the best softball player in high school, earn that “World’s Best Mom” coffee cup. (Me, I want to be the very best swear-word-counting Christian movie reviewer at Plugged In. No one can tabulate profanities like I can, no matter what Bob Hoose says.)

Well, Henry Brogan is the best: The best at killing people.

Admittedly, he doesn’t have a coffee cup that says so. He hasn’t received any “Year’s Best Hit Man” plaques during National Assassin Convention dinners. But everybody knows he’s pretty good at his job. I’m sure even the people he killed would speak up for his expertise if they could. “Quick!” One would say. “Never saw it coming!” another would add. “Five stars!”

He’s a moral killer, too—or at least so he’d like to believe. He only shoots folks who deserve it: Terrorists, murderers, that sort of thing. He works for the U.S. of A., after all. Sure, technically assassination is pretty illegal in most contexts, but U.S.-sanctioned assassination is as pure and innocent as murder gets. The government would never make Henry do anything untoward.

Or, again, at least so he thought.

For his 72nd government-sanctioned killing, Henry shoots a guy on a train from two kilometers away. Just another day at the office, right? But not for Henry. See, he pegged the guy in the neck: He was aiming for the head. Given that he’s now of an age where he could legitimately ask for senior citizen discounts at Golden Corral, Henry’s wondering whether it might be time to hang up his silencer.

And when he learns that his target might not have been a murderer or terrorist at all, but just a microbiologist working on some super-secret project that some in the government would like to keep super-secret … well, just more reason to walk away.

But here’s the thing about being a government assassin: It’s a really hard job to quit. Voluntarily, at least. When you step away from the hit-man game, your retirement—your permanent retirement—is often forced upon you. Especially when your employers think you might know more than is good for them.

Clay Verris, head of a private military agency known as Gemini, has been working closely with some government officials for quite some time now. As Henry’s former commander, he’s intimitely familiar with the world’s best assassin. He knows that Henry won’t be the easiest guy to (ahem) retire.

But Clay thinks he knows just the right guy for the job: A guy who he created—quite literally—to be Henry’s equal, if not better.

Clay calls him “Junior.” But he doesn’t look anything like Clay. In fact, Junior’s the spitting image of Henry himself—right down to his DNA. Just 25 years younger.

Hey, you can’t be the best at something forever. But your clone? Maybe.

Positive Elements

Obviously, Henry’s career track is pretty problematic. But the movie portrays Henry as a hitman with a conscience. He’s tortured by the “ghosts” of his job to some extent, but he also feels like he’s making the world a safer, better place through what he does. When he learns that some elements in his government have been using him for their own nefarious ends, though, he’s pretty hacked off.

But he’s not all about killing folks. He’s about saving them, too. When he realizes that lots of his closest associates are getting knocked off (as a way for these “elements” to tie up loose ends), he dashes to rescue a young woman named Danny who’d likely be next. And when he finally meets Junior, Henry’s determined to save the wayward lad if he can—even though this wayward lad is equally determined to kill Henry. Henry even protects Junior as Junior is trying to kill him. “Don’t shoot him!” he repeatedly bellows at Danny as Junior throws Henry around.

Spiritual Content

A scene takes place in an ancient church crypt in Budapest, presumably a Christian one. There’s a reference to how Clay is “playing God with DNA.”

Sexual Content

Gemini Man seems, inconsistently, to push Danny (who’s in her 20s) and Henry (who’s 51) into a place of romantic tension. Henry asks Danny out and brings her flowers early in their working relationship—by way of apology, the dialogue suggests, but it sure looks like a date. He admits to her that she’s his “type,” but denies any attraction to her. He suggests that Junior may be attracted to her, though. So when Junior forces Danny to strip down to her underwear (ostensibly to search for any wires she might be harboring), the scene feels that much more sexual. (We see Danny in her bra.)

Henry rhetorically asks Junior if he’s still a virgin. We see a woman in a revealing bathing suit in the background—a woman whom one of Henry’s friends is clearly having an affair with. We see men shirtless at times.

Violent Content

Any movie predicated on two assassins is bound to have a little violence attached to it. And as such, Gemini Man is about what we’d expect.

We see several frenetic fight scenes where people are hit, kicked, wrestled to the ground and thrown into walls. They feature both men and women, by the way, and one culminates in one guy getting smashed in the face and (as a result of that hit or others like it off camera) losing several teeth (which the winner dumps into someone else’s hands). People are sometimes stabbed or shot during these melees, too—though with non-lethal force. Another scene involves two guys and, essentially, a weaponized motorcycle: A man gets conked in the face by a back tire, which sends him flying, and he must dodge the vehicle several times.

Lots of people are shot and killed, as well. We see the aftermath of Henry’s last paid kill on shaky phonecam footage: The man is slumped in a train seat, blood on his neck and a splash of blood on the seat back, as people in the car scream and run around. Others die a bit more bloodlessly: Henry surgically eliminates several snipers and assailants surrounding his and other properties. He and others perforate other would-be killers with bullets.

A training exercise depicts lots of people getting shot (and a few showy explosions). Two people are killed on a boat off camera: We see their lifeless bodies dumped into the water. Henry has a fear of drowning, and we see several scenes (often in flashback) showing him struggling or sinking or being held down in the water. A near superhuman man, wearing body armor, is peppered with bullets and explosives and struggles through a burning inferno. Someone dies after his car is blown up by a flying missile. We hear horror stories from Henry’s past, as well as a tally of how many people he’s killed. We’re told that his mother used to whip or spank him often—though, Henry admits, he probably deserved it. Someone cuts into a friend’s arm to remove a tracking device.

Crude or Profane Language

We hear one f-word paired with the word “mother” (and an acronym of the same phrase). Ten s-words are also uttered, as well as words like “h---,” “p--s” and “sucks”. God’s name is paired with “d--n” three times, and Jesus’ name is abused twice.

Drug and Alcohol Content

People drink whiskey, brandy, beer and vodka.

Other Negative Elements

[Spoiler warning] ”Junior,” the Henry hitman clone, was raised by the evil Clay Verris. He lied to the boy for most of his life about his origins (telling him that he was an orphan and left at a fire station), and Clay’s own motives as a father seem unclear. “He was a weapon,” Clay says, pointing to another soldier under his command. “You are my son.” But it’s pretty clear that he wanted to weaponize Junior, too—turning him into a “better” version of Henrythrough a “loving” parent and stable homelife. This is negative on the surface, but it also might carry extra negative weight for adoptive families: Junior eventually has much more in common, and shows much more affinity for Henry than his adopted dad (albeit with reason).

Conclusion

"Seventy-two kills, Del,” Henry tells his old boss. “That starts to mess with you a little bit.”

And so it should.

On one level, Gemini Man is just what you’d expect from a Will Smith-fronted, PG-13 actioner: A charismatic lead. Lots of action. Not much depth. The gimmick here—the fact that Smith essentially co-stars with a younger version of himself, courtesy of CGI—is an interesting one, even if “Junior” looks and feels a little less than fully human.

But dig a little deeper, and the film feels more problematic. There’s more swearing than you’d expect from a light action flick, and some gratuitous sensuality that could’ve been easily avoided. And while the action isn’t particularly bloody, there’s certainly a lot of it.

Moreover, we must grapple with the film’s hero—a hitman who just wants to retire. The film takes pains to paint Henry as a nice guy—a killer with a conscience. And that’s great. But he’s a killer nevertheless. And there’s really no overarching moral or point in play to redeem the character or inspire those of us in the audience to be better people.

Actioners don’t always require this, of course. Most of the Mission Impossible films don’t have much of a point either. But most of them are better movies than Gemini Man, and so the lack of reason here feels more glaring, and more disappointing. Despite its clever central gimmick, Gemini Man feels a little more tedious and tawdry than it ought. And it’s not a movie that I’d want to clone.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Will Smith as Henry Brogan/Junior; Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Danny Zakarweski; Clive Owen as Clay Verris; Douglas Hodge as Jack Willis; Benedict Wong as Baron; Ralph Brown as Del Patterson; Linda Emond as Janet Lassiter

Director

Ang Lee ( )

Distributor

Paramount Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

October 11, 2019

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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