There are a few chills in Surrogates, a glossy but enjoyable sci-fi thriller, but none as profoundly creepy as the sight of Bruce Willis with CGI-scrubbed face, complete with smooth cheeks and blond-frosted bangs.
Old Willis is Tom Greer, a cynical FBI agent in an alternate modern world where much of the population are homebound shut-ins plugged into perfect robotic duplicates who wander around doing their dirty work. Alongside his fashion-model-prim partner robo (Radha Mitchell), Willis investigates a twisty conspiracy involving a flashlight-like weapon capable of shorting out the droids and killing their users with feedback.
This high-concept setup offers plenty of room to consider such heady cultural themes as identity issues, race and gender confusion and youth obsession, at least before director Jonathan Mostow gets bogged down in procedural murk and noisy explosions.
In its best moments, Surrogates recalls a host of sci-fi classics, including The Matrix, A.I., Blade Runner, perhaps most closely resembling John Frankenheimer's sleek '60s cult-great Seconds, though the similarity is merely cosmetic. The ideas are there but it's short on real humanity and biting satire; if Surrogates makes its joys shrink by invoking better movies, it at least gives you things to think about between car chases. It offers questions about Hollywood's future — will we someday be happy watching robots do our fighting and emoting for us? Or are we there already?
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.