It was in 1920 that Karel Capek, a Czech writer, first used the word "robot" in a play called R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots). His robots were humanoid machines that developed the capacity to love, so that they were human-like not only externally, but internally (at least as far as emotions are concerned) as well. The implication was that they were no longer machines but had become human like us. They were a new Adam and Eve.
Since that first appearance, robots of all kinds have invaded both fiction and the cinema screen. There have been threatening mechanicals and cute little droids. There have been servants to man and servants to man gone berserk, computer-like know-it-alls and dogged garbage cleaners. There have been diabolic humanoids and perfected human idealizations. The surrogates in the eponymous Jonathan Mostow film are robots from this last category.
In the not too distant future humans have taken to living vicariously through perfected humanoid surrogates controlled by their thoughts as they, themselves, lie prone in their homes. The surrogates are all good looking, all young, all physically strong and athletic, supermen and women. Surrogates work for their controllers; they play for them. They love for them. All interaction between people is between surrogates: even, it seems, between husband and wife. Life is beautiful for everyone in a world where everyone is beautiful and nothing seems beyond human capacity through the agency of these surrogates. But when suddenly two surrogates are destroyed by a secret weapon, and even more significantly, their controllers are killed as well, this utopian paradise begins to reveal some fissures.
Enter Bruce Willis as F.B.I. agent Tom Greer; it is up to him to find out what is going on. This is the set up of Mostow's Surrogates based on the comic series by Robert Venditti now available on DVD. Willis plays both a bald grizzled human version of himself and his wavy haired surrogate, and he plays them both with more or less the same kind of intense commitment we have come to expect from the hero of the Die Hard franchise. He is aided by Radha Mitchell as his surrogate F.B.I. agent partner. Ving Rhames does a supporting turn as the dreadlocked leader of a sect of surrogate refuseniks and James Cromwell shows up as the discarded inventor of the surrogates. In general all their performances are workmanlike, if not award-winning.