Directed by: José Padilha
Starring: Michael Keaton, Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, Abbie Cornish
The original Robocop was an amazing mix of so many elements raising the film to iconic status and spawning sequels, videogames, comics, and even a TV series. It was inevitable that the classic Paul Verhoeven film would get remade.
The original film began by showing us just how horribly things are going in the city of Detroit. The police are corrupt, gangs and drugs have taken over the streets and innocent citizens hide in fear. A new breed of cop was needed and Robocop fit the bill. The chaos on the streets of Detroit in this new version of the film just doesn’t seem that bad, in fact no one seems to be that scared of anything. With that said Omnicorp is determined to bring their military drones into American cities. The compromise? They decide to combine a man with real feelings and a machine capable of mowing down bad guys like a lawn mower.
Alex Murphy ends up filling the bill when a car bomb destroys most of his body. It appears he was getting too close to the big bad guy in his own investigation and he paid the price. So Murphy becomes the great experiment and the public falls in love with this sleek black crime fighter. As I mentioned earlier no one seems governed by fear and in need of a super hero crime fighter. On top of that Murphy’s own investigation has no weight in the story and in fact is little more than a plot tool.
While the action is often cool even if there is a ridiculous lack of bloodletting none of it seems necessary. Michael Keaton as the corrupt owner of Omnicorp and Gary Oldman as the scientist responsible for the Robocop technology are both high points in the film. Joel Kinnaman is adequate as the fully human Alex Murphy and he does a slightly better job as the android cop. He’s not bad mind you, just sort of forgettable. Abbie Cornish plays Murphy’s wife and her role here is to be the emotional backbone for Murphy, the one thing that can bring his human side forward when his robo side threatens to take over completely. She too is adequate but to her credit she does as much as she can with the very little she is given by the script.
This version of Robocop does attempt some political commentary mostly through the news casts of Samuel L. Jackson’s character. The problem is that it’s all on the nose and lacking the bite of the original film. The original Robocop handled the commentary with clever snarkiness and humor, here it’s just formulaic. Jackson’s character finally gets a brief moment of humor right at the end but it just doesn’t work that well up to that point. This Robocop lacks the balls of the original in every way. This rendition just doesn’t “go for it”. The film instead sticks to an underdeveloped base of characters and an overly convoluted story that really has no reason to be the mess that it is. Characters come and go in the story at will just for story progression and nothing seems quite as bad ass as it should.
Robocop isn’t all bad. The film has great modern style and the action scenes are often entertaining even if they lack the humor of the original film. Gary Oldman is quite good and fun to watch. This film also does attempt to make observations about the man versus machine and man becomes machine in a more philosophical way. Sure that leads the film to be a bit off balance because it veers from being a kick ass action film with snarky humor and social commentary to a make shift drama with some action scenes; totally not what the original film was. Now nothing says this remake has to be the same kind of film as the original but it should strive to be better than the original and here it just doesn’t succeed. There are sparks of greatness but there’s no real need for the Robocop and the film ends with a whimper instead of the bang it deserves. In fact, it feels like the movie just sort of stops.