Bruce Willis has done sci-fi before, and the results have been both fun (THE FIFTH ELEMENT) and dramatic (TWELVE MONKEYS), both of which exceptionally provided in their respective goals. But this latest effort, SURROGATES, is neither fun nor written or acted well. It is a thought provoking plot just done poorly, and made me wish I had a surrogate of my own to send to the film, while I stayed at home and watched THE LAST BOY SCOUT.
The film has Bruce playing the time honored favorite, a grizzled old cop (more accurately FBI agent), Tom Greer, but we don’t get to see that agent until 30 minutes in. We first only get to see the surrogate of Greer, which is a mentally controlled robot representation of the user, made to look like the user wishes to look, in this case a younger, blonde version of Bruce, and the plastic look of the flesh is unnerving. Surrogates are used by practically everyone since their creation by the inventor, Dr. Lionel Canter, played by James Cromwell – who you’ll remember created the robots in I, ROBOT, the man is typecast as robot-inventor. Those who refuse and outright loathe the use of surrogates, called Dreads, have formed their own communities and are led by The Prophet (Ving Rhames giving speeches Marcellus Wallace-style), who preaches of a time when surrogates will no longer be used and people will actually experience the world again.
Greer and his partner Peters (Radha Mitchell) investigate a murder, what they say is the first murder in 5 years to go along with a total decrease in crime over those years as well, which begs the question: What did they do before this? A surrogate has been killed and also killed its controller, which is precisely what the surrogates are used to prevent. So Greer and Peters have to find the device capable of killing both surrogate and controller, and also do so quietly so as to not arouse a panic amongst the population of surrogate users. There’s a conspiracy plot, some decent chase scenes, manufactured intrigue and a bunch of mess they throw at the viewers to hide the fact that there’s just not that much here. Rosamund Pike plays Greer’s wife, hiding away from life in her surrogate since the loss of their son. This simply adds to the contrived formula, meant to add conflict and angst to our grizzled Fed, and Willis wears that angst well, but it’s also a page out of the I,ROBOT book, and as such seems like déjà vu all over again.
Finally, if a surrogate of Bruce is used to represent him at an earlier age, why did they make him this weird blonde? Why didn’t they model the surrogate after David Addison on “Moonlighting”? In fact, it would have even been better if they just spliced in clips from “Moonlighting” and altered them to fit the situations. Or maybe I’m just trying to think of something, anything, to make this a less formulaic sci-fi flick. If you want an avatar-based action movie to quench your thirst at movie theaters, sorry to say you’re going to have to wait until James Cameron’s movie comes out in late December. As for SURROGATES, wait until it hits the Scifi network…or Syfy, or whatever they’re calling themselves now.