Wednesday, February 12

Robocop Review

Dir: José Padilha
Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Keaton

Another remake of another genre favorite; seems to be a never-ending theme the last few years. Director José Padilha takes the unenviable task of rebooting “Robocop”, which fortunately in this instance the term “reboot” fits quite well. Paul Verhoeven’s fantastic 1987 original still stands the test of time with a mix of R-rated violence, satire, and keen social awareness of the products that composed the 80’s. Padilha’s version, most noticeable PG-13, works to a large extent due to its diversion from the original and by making a film that more closely resembles the social climate reflected in current society.

Omnicorp is the conglomerate that is advancing robotics and drones for use as defensive tools in hostile nations. This heavily armed technology has created a world controlled by fear, however the U.S. hasn’t allowed Omnicorp opportunity to take power away from human law enforcement. This company is run by Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton) and his chance to move his company into U.S. favor arrives in the form of Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), a Detroit police officer nearly killed by a car bomb. Murphy is the new defense product of Omnicorp, a robot built with the body (an impressive effect) of Alex Murphy.

Padilha’s best decision with his “Robocop” was distancing itself from the source material. This film is more of a straight up action film. The addition of some great actors also assists the film tremendously. Dr. Dennett Norton, played by Gary Oldman, offers a paternal figure in the form of a controlled scientist struggling between ethical and corporate persuasions. Oldman is always interesting to watch and offers some much needed emotion here. Samuel L. Jackson is also a pleasant surprise playing a news reporter who’s scenes casually intercut into the narrative in an effort to offer some depth by discussing issues related to the social and political climate of the world.  It’s an effective touch that wisely correlates the film within the issues plaguing our world today. Another narrative element that is utilized well is the added emotional quality of Murphy’s wife and son. This component, only slightly used in the original film, adds a humanistic struggle for Murphy who is constantly being reprogrammed to fit Omnicorp’s strategic plan.

Unfortunately there are also a few glaring missteps. The film lacks a proper villain, even though a few are proposed. Michael Keaton’s company head is the obvious bad guy choice but the character is too restrained. Jackie Earle Haley’s security lead takes a few verbal shots at Robocop but he more often is outwitted. Even when Murphy’s family is threatened it never feels overly dangerous for them. Another shortcoming is that the narrative develops some interesting questions but it never journeys far into exploring them. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, due impart to the great performances that accommodate the limitations of the script, it is an aspect that feels like an attempt to merely meet the creative bar instead of raising it. This, depending on what you are expecting from this “Robocop”, could be a positive attribute.

My initial impression of a new “Robocop” movie was negative and even though this film doesn’t live up to the imprint left by the original, it’s not a terrible film and that alone is an achievement.

Monte’s Rating

2.75 out of 5.00

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