Film Reviews


A montage of news footage crisply introduces the not-too-distant future, where the world's white-collar professionals live vicariously through plastic-smooth swimsuit-cut surrogate bodies, psychically remote-controlled by flesh-and-blood selves abandoned to storage and pallid vegetation. These superdurable avatars are free to live in (somewhat timidly imagined) consequence-free hedonism. No real victims means no crimes, hence not much work for our FBI agent (Bruce Willis), until an unheard-of murder draws him to the ghettos of the offline human minority. As Willis investigates, director Jonathan Mostow takes the tired anti-authoritarian formula of dreadlocked granola resistance against well-equipped state thugs, and knots it in noir-ish contortions. Surrogates are played by human actors with the slightest emotional attenuation, recalling CGI-heavy movies that spend untold millions reinventing life. Willis is fine, both as his blond action figure (Zack Morris hair) and actual self, in trusty bruised palooka mode. Mostow does good meat-and-potatoes genre work, coherent even when reckless — which is why you probably don't know his name. His Internet-era Fahrenheit 451 comes in nice and lean, with room for a couple of cherry action pieces — that surrogate bodies can be guiltlessly plowed over liberates his car chase, and Radha Mitchell does fine acrobatics in high heels.

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Nick Pinkerton