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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Ang Lee
scr David Benioff, Billy Ray, Darren Lemke
prd Jerry Bruckheimer, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger
with Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong, Douglas Hodge, Ralph Brown, Linda Emond, EJ Bonilla, Ilia Volok, Alexandra Szucs, Justin James Boykin, Christopher T Elliott
release UK 10.Oct.19
19/US Paramount 1h57
It's disappointing to see a director of Ang Lee's calibre turn himself to such a pedestrian script. While the technical challenge must have been enticing, the story, characters and dialog are badly under-developed. At least Lee's adds some ripping action and a staggering visual sensibility, including high frame-rates in Imax and some playful 3D. The digitised young Will Smith is impressive, but that technology isn't quite there yet.
Henry (Smith) is such an awesome assassin that he can shoot a rogue scientist in a bullet train from two kilometres away. Having completed this task, Henry decides to retire. But a meeting with an old colleague (Hodge) reveals he's still in trouble, so he flees to Cartagena with agent Danny (Winstead) and another old friend Baron (Wong). Tenacious big boss Clay (Owen) tracks him there and sends his secret Gemini weapon: Junior, a lithe young clone of Henry. The chase continues to Budapest and back home to the Georgia bayou.
There are all kinds of father-son dynamics swirling around in this film, but the script seems almost oblivious to them. So it's up to Lee and the actors to play up connections between parents, mentors and clones while the script strains for relevance in clumsy scenes in which characters talk about themselves. Otherwise, this is a dim but technically superior action romp, with several flat-out spectacular chases and fights, shot and performed with expertise and originality.
Smith is always engaging on-screen, and he's solid as the middle-aged Henry. He has so much charisma that it's easy to see why he has such strong friendships. So why Owen's inexplicably snarling villain wants him dead is a bit perplexing (maybe he has his own daddy issues). Smith's scenes with himself are nicely played, although there are elements about his de-aged face that feel uncanny. Winstead is solid as a strong young woman who is basically irrelevant to the story and then is forced to strip to her underwear for no reason.
The super-high definition of the images makes the audience feel right in the middle of the action. It's often startlingly visceral, from jaw-dropping wide shots to down-and-dirty fistfights (although the 3D struggles with these). Lee has a fresh eye for a chase sequence, putting the camera right into the fray. It almost makes us hope he takes on a Fast & Furious movie. On the other hand, let's hope he makes something meaty again.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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