WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Gemini Man, in theaters now.
A lot of the plot of director Ang Lee's Gemini Man was spoiled by the trailers revealing that Will Smith's ex-government assassin, Henry Brogan, is pursued by a younger version of himself. That was played up by the marketing largely because of the impressive "de-aging" effects used to create the younger assassin.
However, there are other antagonists, including Clive Owen's Clay Verris, head of the security firm GEMINI, which clones soldiers, as well as the assorted killers he employs for black-ops missions. Sadly, Gemini Man wastes the potential of its biggest villain in the finale, in which Henry faces off against Clay, his former boss.
Clay commanded Henry in various wars, including Vietnam and several trips to the Middle East, and realized he could be the perfect killer. However, Henry was growing older, and grappled with PTSD, baggage Clay intended to eliminate in order to create the ideal soldier. The result is Junior, whom Clay raised as his own son. At 23, Junior hunts his 50-year-old counterpart, aiming to kill the original so there could be no ties to Clay's program, thus allowing the younger clone to roam free as a hitman.
However, in the finale, Junior discovers his moral compass, and unites with Henry and the latter's handler Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to take down Clay's crew. But in the final moments, Clay unleashes a masked killer who runs up and down buildings as if he's a super-soldier, using guns and swords to scare the life out of Junior and Henry. It turns out this is the soldier who knows no pain, no emotion. The pinnacle of the GEMINI program, he's the second clone of Henry. But rather than present audiences with a spectacle of a battle, the confrontation is a brief affair. He quickly defeats the trio, only for him to be neutralized with explosives. But while we're waiting for Henry III to revive -- he was wearing a bulletproof suit and helmet, after all -- the clone fizzles out and dies. It's an underwhelming finish to something Clay builds up throughout the film.
The unmasking is telegraphed, but while that missed the mark due to a lack of emotional resonance, we could have at least gotten a badass fight. Instead, the conflicts lasts only a minute or so, and pales in comparison to similar "boss battles" from other action films. Henry III is clearly supposed to be the main villain, because Clay doesn't do anything, except wait around to get knocked out by Henry, but he isn't intimidating.
Lee could have surprised the audience by revealing the elite killer to be a younger clone of Clay. He taught Henry's squad everything they knew, and when he brawled with Junior, it became clear why he was their mentor. Using the younger and more skilled clone of Clay would have been something we didn't see coming, and delivered an epic tag-team match between war veterans and their younger selves.
It might have taken the rivalry to the next level after it gestated for 90 minutes -- especially considering that Henry hated working under Clay. Most of all, Junior would have seen the younger Clay and recognize in him the monster he was intended to be. Instead, the ending is rushed and predictable.
In theaters now, Gemini Man is directed by Ang Lee from a script written by David Benioff, Billy Ray and Darren Lemke. The film stars Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen and Benedict Wong.