©2009 Big Empire Industries and Randy Shandis Enterprises
Every right imaginable is reserved.


This week:

Filthy says:
"Like going back in time to shittier, less intelligent age."

If you want to enjoy Surrogates, be sure to check your brain at the door. That's also good advice for anyone who wants shit his pants or get run over by a car. Surrender your ability to think, to regulate your bodily functions and get ready to rock and roll! Checking your brain is no guarantee, actually, but it'll give you a chance.

Surrogates hopes to God that its audience is so exhausted, or sated with greasy popcorn and eight-dollar sodas, that they've loosened their grip on reality and common sense. They must be too tired to actually think through a problem, or to connect A to B. Or more importantly, to ignore when A to B don't connect in any way that resembles logic. It's a movie of such monumental stupidity that it assumes you can still breathe while accepting its premise, sloppy plotting and retarded dialog, but not much more than that. Seriously, anyone with the internal fortitude to sit through it is encouraged to watch this movie and imagine every insipid line is uttered by someone at the Special Olympics. It won't change anything.

The movie starts with two strikes against it for me. First is Bruce Willis, whose appearance in any movie sends me back to a rainy night in the Mesa Theater watching Color of Night, a psycho-thriller that sets the bar very high for making no sense and being pretentiously pleased with itself. It featured a performance by Willis so bad and confused it would have landed him in jail for life in most civilized countries. Second is the weird eighties-nineties vibe it gives off. Outside of the modern special effects, this movie feels like a lot those crapulent futuristic flicks starring the likes of Jean -Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, or in one case, my friends and me using a VCR camcorder, a shitload of aluminum foil and a brick of M-80s. The results were pretty fucking amazing. The plot was lame, but if you've never seen a firecracker blow up in someone's hair it was worth the price of admission to Mark Smith's garage.

The premise of Surrogates is that in an alternate modern day almost everyone on earth has a "surrogate", or human-looking robot, to do his daily chores and job, while the owner sits at home in a La-Z-Boy, picking his ass and remotely controlling his doppel ganger. People can have better-looking robotic selves that never age and, in Bruce Willis' case, have cheap, weird toupees. That's an okay premise for a sci-fi movie, especially the toupee part, and could be used to explore people's fear of aging and disease, the role of technology in helping us live, the desire to be someone else and our consumption habits. Surrogates doesn't waste time on such commentary. It's way more interested in brainless, conventional plotting and dumb action. Actually, the movie spends very little time showing us how people would live differently with surrogates. They seem to do the same mundane crap we already do. In reality, if people used artificial versions of themselves in the real world with no repercussions of disease or injury, it'd be like Vegas. Id run amok. There'd be fucking in the streets, fistfights on every corner, bestiality, dragons humping tailpipes, absolutely no work getting done and billions of people living in Japanese pod hotels, covered in their own shit and piss.

Bruce Willis, more inert than Argon, plays a detective with the lazy Hollywood grassfucker's favorite shorthand for tragic backstory: a dead child. Aspiring writers: if you don't know a character's motivation, just plug in a kid who kicked the bucket. With that simple, overused touch your character can justify everything in the name of his long, lost booger-eater. So, Willis has a dead kid and a wife in denial. When some surrogates end up burnt to a crisp, Willis and his bland, underused co-detective (Radha Mitchell) find that whatever destroyed the surrogates also killed their human owners. Forget that that makes no sense because the movie does. It does right, though, by not spending a lot of time trying to explain it with bullshit science.

One of the murdered humans is the son of the inventor of surrogates, played with the cheesy goodness of a Christmas log by James Cromwell. He has been ousted by the current manufacturers, so there is almost no surprise in the big revelation that he's a bitter old fart, the kind usually only associated with the digestive aftermath of eating three pounds of baker's chocolate. There is also almost no surprise too, when the audience is informed that the police Willis is a member of are dirty, especially not after one of them pointedly says, "We're the good guys."

Willis' sleuthing, and the amount of data we have to figure out if he's any good at his job, amounts to one stroke of genius. He types four words into a search engine and the case is cracked; the motive and criminal pop right out. That's fucking it. It's like he's using the Bat Computer. In another scene, Willis goes to the military and asks about the top secret weapon being used to kill people. First, I have no idea how he gets to interview a military officer about something so sensitive. Second, there are about three seconds between that officer saying "That's classified," and him spilling the beans. No arm twisting, no clever trick to make him talk. Just a line in the script that says, "Officer waits a beat and then blabbers like a schoolgirl who lost her first tooth."

Just because the level of intrigue is so low, though, doesn't mean the music is low key. The score beats you in the head until your bleeding from the ears. Nobody can walk down the street without a full orchestra warning the audience that something's about to happen (it isn't). No scene is quiet, and maybe that's meant to cover up for director Jonathan Mostow's inability to generate excitement or tension with the story or shit-ham acting. I can see him in the editing room, "Yeah, this scene sort of sucks, too--turn up the music and see if that helps.--Yes, better."

The movie's only surprise is how the plot drops horseshit faster than the equestrian section of Arvada's Harvest Parade. There is a resistance movement that refuses to use surrogates, and they are led by Ving Rhames doing an impression of George Clinton after twelve days without a shower. He calls himself the Prophet and so do his followers. Seriously? How does anyone get followers when he calls himself that? Those are always the guys who command you to drink Kool-Aid, cut off your balls, claim you can clone humans, or prepare for the starship's arrival. Rhames, it turns out, is actually a surrogate plant by Cromwell. Why? Because Cromwell's a bitter fuck, and because it's exactly the kind of twist dumbass screenwriters love, no matter how little sense it makes and how many other venues of power a wealthy man has besides impersonating a poor black one. I have no idea how Willis determines his boss is a bad guy, and have very little interest in why his co-detective had her surrogate taken over by Cromwell. That dude is fucking everywhere.

Surrogates finally ends when, as the music swells, Willis types three passwords into a computer as a countdown timer goes to zero. Whooo! That's exciting. I liked it so much I went directly to my local cybercafé and watched fat guys in sweatpants do it some more. It's exciting stuff. Once the surrogates are destroyed, everyone comes out of their homes to see the world. They aren't so fat and atrophied that they can't walk. They aren't blinded by the light. They're ready to get a latte at Starbucks.

Surrogates is fucking awful. It's a braindead piece of shit, the kind best seen as a double feature at a $2 theater after huffing glue. Or after you're dead. One Finger.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



Liz Smith of Variety

Of My One and Only, "Don't dare miss this adorable movie"

Seriously, you don't want to piss off Liz Smith, so you better go. Today.

Filthy's Reading
Nick Reding- Methland

Listening to
Man... or Astroman- Made from Technetium


Total Recall