New Film: Surrogates (12a)
September 30, 2009
Stars Bruce Willis, Rosamund Pike, Radha Mitchell, Ving Rhames, Michael Cudlitz, Helena Mattsson
Key to the remit for a big summer blockbuster is a big, dumb story, action a-plenty, jaw-dropping special effects, a smattering of humour amid a typically hyperbolic Hollywood script and thrills, spills and more thrills, all buoyed by a whole wodge of wonga to ensure it’s a darn sight bigger than the last gargantuan-budget moneyspinner.
Bruce Willis vehicle Surrogates feels like it was meant to be on this year’s summer flicks list but was actually deemed so poor in so many departments that it was pushed back to a release date in the no-man’s-land interim period between summer and Christmas.
Set in the future, middle-aged cop Tom Greer (Willis) is investigating a series of deaths linked to apparent assassinations of ‘surrogates’. Surrogates shares an idea to where technology brings us, as well as to what extent people will do to maintain their youtful bodies-through cosmetic surgery.
They are the next step up from cosmetic surgery in the pursuit of the body beautiful. But instead of cutting into the body – with a nip here and a tuck there – you simply plug yourself in at home to operate your personal, tailored-to-your-specifications surrogate robot and go about your life.
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Greer’s misgivings about the system are made clear to us in his pleas to his wife (Rosamund Pike) to switch off her surrogate so they can interact as humans.
When she refuses and Willis’s surrogate is destroyed by a group of militants, he abandons the idea of living as a surrogate, refusing a replacement unit, continuing to investigate the case in his very human – very vulnerable – form.
Can Greer find out who’s behind the killings and put a stop to their lunatic plan and save humankind?
Well, of course he can. This is Bruce ‘Yippee-ki-yay’ Willis we’re talking about here and this is pure, nonsensical Hollywood fare, with the 54-year-old even getting the Tinseltown on-screen airbrush treatment.
OK, so that’s deliberate but while he’s on screen as the surrogate version of himself he’s nothing short of distracting.
Far from being a leaner, fitter, younger, more polished and henceforth more desirable version of his real self, Willis’s surrogate, with its physiognomy digitally altered in the extreme, looks more like a butch version of Mariah Carey in one of her music videos, all soft focus and smoothed-out.
As you watch, you remain aware at all times that Surrogates is trash, with dodgy acting, a pants script, plot holes galore and a strong sense of the unfeasible.
It’s risibly bad in fact but the enjoyment factor remains – bizarrely – intact, dropping it firmly into so-bad-it’s-good territory.
Some valid points about where our obsession with looks as a society is heading notwithstanding, this is arguably best described as The Matrix meets Bladerunner meets I, Robot... colliding with something else entirely awful to knit it all together into a facile sci-fi thriller that is simultaneously curiously entertaining yet complete crud.