I freely admit it — I’m a big fan of director Jonathan Mostow. But sometimes you can feel a director slipping with each film and I really hope that with some more films under his belt and his name back in the writer’s credit, he can get himself back on track.
With his first theatrical outing he brought us a spectacular little film called Breakdown starring Kurt Russel and Kathleen Quinlan in a fight for survival along the highways of the back roads. This was co-written with the same writer he teamed up with to give us U-571 (Sam Montgomery) which brought bigger stars along with it such as Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, and Jon Bon Jovi. It's a very claustrophobic and intense film that almost completely takes place under water and within the confines of a submarine yet manages to be gripping and interesting all the way through, which is a big deal for a guy who has no normal interest in the war genre.
For his third theatrical outing Mostow teamed up with one of the most powerful movie stars of all time, now governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He also brought along some new writers to the series, Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato. These four brought us the much maligned Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. I am a big supporter of this film. Most people hate it but it never took itself seriously, had some amazing robot-on-robot fight scenes, and gave us the first true downer ending of the whole series. And anyone who can’t find the beauty in the mayhem behind the never-ending scene of street destruction just needs to realize they're watching a movie about robots and really let their suspension of disbelief go crazy.
In Surrogates, Mostow’s latest directorial effort, he brings back the robots and the T3 writers but completely check their brains at the door. Thankfully they also brought along another one of the world’s reigning action stars, Mr. John McClane himself, Bruce Willis. Based on a graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, something seems to have been lost in the translation here. There are plenty of heady ideas but they're set against a whodunit that’s so obligatory you wish there was more action along the way to make up for what is totally lost in the story department. I guess this makes us not forget that the writing partners, while bringing us the likes of The Game, T3, and this summer's Terminator Salvation, also gave us Watchers 2, The Net, Primeval, and their worst film to date, Catwoman. Their writing is a mixed bag for sure but when they get it right it’s usually more than watchable, especially when they have a good director behind them such as Mostow or David Fincher (The Game).