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In the picture

In the Tall Grass is let down by the slenderness of its premise; Gemini Man misfires on several fronts.

In the picture

In the Tall Grass**

*ing: Laysla De Oliveira, Avery Whitted, Will Buie Jr., Harrison Gilbertson, and Patrick Wilson

Directed by Vincenzo Natali

Several Stephen King novels have spawned memorable movie adaptations, but the new thriller In the Tall Grass clearly proves that some of his stories just aren’t very well-suited for the big screen treatment.

Based on the novella of the same name by King and his son Joe Hill, the film is built on a premise that turns out to be too sparse for a full-length feature.

After hearing a boy, Tobin (Will Buie Jr.), shout for help from a field of very tall grass, pregnant Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) and her brother Cal (Avery Whitted) – who have stopped at the side of a road while driving to another city – enter the field in the hopes of rescuing the child. But they quickly realize that they, too, are now lost in the grass, unable to leave. Separated and panicking, the siblings struggle to find each other, and it starts to become evident that something sinister is at play.

Director Vincenzo Natali successfully builds a creepy atmosphere, and the claustrophobic setting initially seems quite unsettling, but the story he is working with simply doesn’t allow the filmmaker to maintain the intrigue for too long. Things start to feel more plodding than thrilling as the plot is stretched till it leads to dull tedium.

IMG-6New elements enter the tale with the arrival of Becky’s boyfriend, Travis (Harrison Gilbertson), and Tobin’s father, Ross (a standout Patrick Wilson), but much of it feels like it’s been tacked on instead of masterfully plotted.

While the performances, overall, are serviceable, you are never really invested in the fate of the characters. It’s not a good sign when the protagonists’ misfortune generates an indifferent “meh” from the audience.

Despite the eerie setting and some visual flair, In the Tall Grass struggles to keep the viewer invested and fails to be particularly scary, although some of its more gruesome, gory turns might intrigue devoted horror fans.

 

Gemini Man*1/2

*ing: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, and Benedict Wong

Directed by Ang Lee

Tagline: Who will save you from yourself?

IMG-8You’d think an actor as charismatic as Will Smith would be consistently hitting cinematic home runs. Instead his output off late – or rather his choice of projects, to be more precise – has been downright disappointing. His latest, in what has become a string of underwhelming entries, is the Ang Lee action thriller Gemini Man, a damp squib that gets almost none of its elements right.

Smith stars as Henry Brogan, a hitman for a government agency – supposedly the best in his field – who decides to retire after a tense mission to assassinate a terrorist. But he soon finds out that the man he killed was actually innocent and ends up being chased by a group, led by Clay Varris (Clive Owen), who want to guard their secrets.

The man who is sent to kill Henry turns out to be his younger clone, a reveal that carries zero surprise (given the film’s marketing) and arrives annoyingly sluggishly. With the help of his new ally Dani (a feisty but out of place Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and old colleague Baron (Benedict Wong, reliable as always), Henry must figure out what’s actually going on and defeat the bad guys before they harm him or his friends.

IMG-7None of the events, however, deliver an impact. The storyline is lazy; the end result unengaging. The script seems like a first draft that wasn’t polished. The action sequences, though, at times, well executed, are so inconsequential that they become tiresome. The young CGI Will Smith clone feels like he has walked out of a video game and into this film.

Given how dull and predictable the plot is, you’d expect that the movie will ultimately deliver a redeeming twist, but that never happens. There are so many interesting implications of the central premise that the film either simply shrugs off or doesn’t even bother to consider at all.

Gemini Man misfires on many fronts, while Smith, once again, delivers a good performance in a subpar movie, leaving you wishing that he’d pick better projects that could make good use of his acting talents.

 

Rating system:  *Not on your life  * ½ If you really must waste your time  ** Hardly worth the bother  ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only  *** Good enough for a look see  *** ½ Recommended viewing  **** Don’t miss it  **** ½ Almost perfect  ***** Perfection

Sameen Amer

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