Robocop (2014)

***

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (1 People gave this 3.00 out of 5)
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I’d buy that for a dollar… and not a penny more.

RoboCop 2014

The H-Bomb:  In the year 2028, America’s wars are fought by combat droids developed by the robo-tech giant, OmniCorp.  Having proven to be very successful overseas, OmniCorp’s CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) wants to bring the droids stateside, rewire them for urban pacification, and deploy them in the crime ridden streets of America’s cities, starting with Detroit.  The problem is, the use of these robots on U.S. soil is illegal, because, as some in congress see it, police work should be left to human beings, who actually have a conscience and are capable of making moral decisions.

Sellars, the enterprising fellow that he is, finds a loophole to this law: Why not put a human inside a robot?  So, with a legal enough solution at hand, Sellars puts his top scientist, Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) on the case of finding a maimed police officer to fit the bill.  Enter Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), a Detroit detective who was recently blown to bits via car bomb while investigating a gun smuggling ring.  The good Dr. Norton is able to salvage the parts of Murphy that still work, the heart, the lungs, the spine, the right hand, and perhaps most importantly, the brain.

Norton fuses those living components with a slick robotic body and thus, RoboCop is born… almost.  See, Murphy’s brain, his intelligence, personality, and memories are all intact, so when he gets a gander at his new body, it takes him some time to readjust, as I’m sure you can imagine.  After some vigorous training and programming at their facility in China, OmniCorp thinks they have a robot cop they can control while giving Murphy the “illusion of free will,” and they bring him back to Detroit to start cleaning up the streets.

At first, all is well, with RoboCop kicking criminal ass all over the Motor City.  He’s a big hit with the public, and OmniCorp stands to make a ton of money, since it looks like their combat droids may very well be sanctioned for use in the U.S., after all.  But, an issues arises, Murphy starts thinking about his wife (Abbie Cornish) and son (John Paul Ruttan), who have been kept away from him for weeks.  He then defies his programming when he stops following company orders, and starts investigating his own murder.

OmniCorp has a very real problem on their hands; a part man, part machine that’s beyond their command.  Sellars is going to have to keep this contained while quietly disposing of Murphy.  Sadly for Mr. Sellars, this is fucking RoboCop we’re talking about, and he’s not about to be disposed of by anyone.

Just to lay it all out, this RoboCop ain’t shit compared to the 1987 original.  That film, directed by Paul Verhoeven, is a bullet-to-the-balls satire of 80’s corporatism and is hands down one of the greatest action movies ever made.  This remake/reboot/re-whatever-you-want-to-call-it, is a watered down, defanged, and downright pussified version that doesn’t have a fraction of the original’s potency.  However, watching this re-imagining as a standalone movie, it’s not half-bad.  It will never be the classic that the first movie is, but it could have been far, far worse (ahem, Total Recall refake).  I’ll put it this way, it’s far better than either of the wretched RoboCop sequels from the early 90’s.  At least this one had the decency not to include any robot ninjas or psychotic 12-year-old crime bosses.

Directed by Brazilian filmmaker Jose Padilha, who made the brutally fantastic Elite Squad films, the remake updates the backdrop from the Reagan 80’s to a post-war on terror world.  The action is mostly bloodless, and while it’s passable for the most part, it’s really nothing amazing.  I did like the agility of this new RoboCop, who’s able to jump, dodge, and dive, as opposed to simply lumbering about.  Robo’s new physicality is cool to watch, but most of the action sequences, particularly the climax at OmniCorp, are lacking any real oomph and seem weirdly half-baked.

Also lacking are the movie’s villains, with the single exception of Keaton, who gets the best role he’s had in years as OmniCorp’s duplicitous CEO.  He is slimy good and I loved him.  The other bad guys, including Jackie Earle Haley’s assholish mercenary, are sketchily defined and under-used.  Not to keep going back to the original, but that one gave us such memorable cretins as Kurtwood Smith’s cooly sadistic Clarence Boddicker, and Ronny Cox’s ruthless corporate cut throat, Dick Jones.  This one gives us a couple of bland crooked cops and some boring Rutger Hauer lookalike.  YAWN.

So, while Robo’s villains score a big fat zero, the movie does make up for it, to an extent, with its media satire, which is mainly delivered by Samuel L. Jackson as a blowhard TV commentator.  Unsubtly named Pat Novak, he is very much a jab at the Fox News style of host, but Jackson plays him with relish and gets just about all the laugh out loud moments in the film.  That bit where he blows his stack and starts screaming “Motherf(bleep)” towards the end is classic SLJ.

Another aspect I like is something that hasn’t been explored since the first film, Murphy’s humanity.  I say the remake actually one-ups the original on this point.  Here, Murphy retains his human personality, so we see his pain and anguish when he realizes he’s been stripped of his body and his life.  The fact that he is fully aware of who he used to be, and has to struggle with that throughout, is an interesting new angle that adds depth to the character.  Some will say that this approach makes Murphy seem more like EmoCop than RoboCop, but I beg to differ.  I say it makes Murphy more complex, and performance wise, Kinnaman nails it.  He may not be Peter Weller, but he’s not trying to be.  This is a new take on the mechanical crime fighter, and I’m down with that.

Other touches that work in the movie’s favor are the inclusions of Murphy’s wife, Clara, and the good natured scientist, Dr. Norton.  Only seen in brief flashbacks before, Clara is fleshed out into a full on supporting character, a woman who refuses to give up on her husband, and is played to perfection by Cornish, who is clearly giving it her all.  As for Oldman, as the well meaning Dr. Norton… well, he’s Gary fucking Oldman, what else is there to say?  After decades of wowing us by playing creeps and weirdos, he shows us, like he did in the The Dark Knight Trilogy, that he can be every bit as compelling in a sympathetic role.

In case you haven’t caught on, it’s the cast of RoboCop that carries it such a long way and makes it a much better movie than it has any right to be.  As a staunch lover of the original film, I went into this expecting, and even wanting, to hate it.  But I honestly didn’t.  Now, when I start comparing it to the original… yeah, it suffers big time.  The first film gave us so many memorable moments that were just money, from the failed ED-209 demonstration, to Robo shooting a would-be rapist in the crotch, to the guy melting from the toxic waste, and the car that hits him… the remake gives us nothing that even comes close to any of that.

The fact that Robo trades his signature Auto-9 for a souped-up taser is a telltale sign that this lacks all the edge and bite of Paul Verhoeven’s masterpiece.  But, again, judging it on its own merits, I say that RoboCop, the remake, is a solid, though somewhat forgettable, action flick.  A decent way to kill a couple of hours… just make sure you kill those hours at a matinee showing.

 

 


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