Bruce Willis has made an art of aging—not of looking younger than his years (or trying to, clinging to youth with hairplugs and a lifted Botox face and a grotesque steroid-enhanced body), but rather of truly aging well. He looks great for a man in his fifties, but he still looks like a man in his fifties—always—and he uses that. In movies like Sin City and Live Free and Die Hard and now Surrogates, he sticks to his same old action genre, more or less, but acknowledges that he’s not the invincible, yippee-ki-yi-yay-motherfucking kid he once was. He lets himself creak a little bit when he moves, and it’s compelling and cool, and Nicolas Cage, for one, should take a lesson.
The effect is particularly noticeable in Surrogates, in which Willis plays not only Tom Greer, grizzled police detective of the near future, but also Greer’s uncanny, bewigged, smooth-faced “surrogate,” a kind of robot representative he controls remotely from the comfort and safety of his home. In Greer’s world, virtually everyone uses a surrogate to interact with the outside—an intriguing premise that raises all kinds of questions, from the practical to the philosophical. Sadly, the movie all but ignores those questions in favor of a routine whodunnit, which is why I spent most of the movie pondering Willis’s aging and other tangential thoughts. I guess I give it credit for providing the material for my flights of fancy, but its failure to develop that material itself makes it a disappointment.