Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 57 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Action including Frenetic Gun Violence Throughout, brief Strong Language, Sensuality and some Drug Material
Directed by: Jose Padilha
Written by: Joshua Zetumer
Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel & Aimee Garcia
Very much in the same situation as the TOTAL RECALL remake, ROBOCOP is a reboot of a cheesy action sci-fi film that was directed by Paul Verhoeven. In the exact same marketing tactic, the studio took what was once a gratuitously violent R-rated film and remade it as a PG-13 flick to attract the widest possible demographic. What was stripped out of the already ridiculous premise is the insane level of gore and in its place is a much more rushed pace of storytelling that attempts to add something new to the mix, but winds up being treated as a mere afterthought. ROBOCOP is not a good film or even a tolerable time-waster. This is a remake that sports a big budget, but feels like it belongs as a Saturday night movie on the Syfy Channel.
In the near future, technology has advanced a point where robots aren’t out of the ordinary. OmniCorp is the company behind the design of robotic soldiers that identifies threats and neutralize them. The robots are stationed in plenty of other countries (as seen by an entirely pointless prologue set in the Middle East), but the USA has made it illegal for a robot to patrol the streets of any city in America. The marketing department and president of OmniCorp are desperate for anything to fight this law, which in turn would make them extremely rich.
Enter Alex Murphy, a clichéd cop stereotype in the disguise of a real character with a name. Not surprisingly, his last mission went terribly wrong and landed his partner in the hospital. The drug lord that he attempted to bust plants a car bomb. It explodes and leaves Alex with very few options of living. OmniCorp takes Alex and rebuilds him. Keeping only his head, a set of organs, and a single hand, Alex is becomes a machine. He’s a Robocop (for lack of a better word) and patrolling the streets to keep citizens safe. The drug dealer may not be the only one that Alex must be wary of, because OmniCorp has some sinister dealings behind closed doors.
Allow me to address the good things about this movie before diving headlong into what sucks about it. The effects are pretty stellar in most scenes. The character of Robocop looks badass and some of the other machines are equally cool. There was an element added (which I won’t spoil) that tries to take the remake in a bit of a new direction for a while. It succeeds on some levels, but there simply wasn’t enough time dedicated to telling this piece of the story. Some of the cast members are familiar and do well in their roles. Gary Oldman is quite good as the scientist who builds Alex’s robotic body. Samuel L. Jackson plays a Bill O’Reilly-esque figure and is fun to watch. Abbie Cornish is decent as Alex’s wife. Then there’s Jackie Earle Haley playing one of the villains and he’s the best performer in the entire film. He oozes bad guy and seems to be having a lot of fun.
On the other side of the coin, the character of Alex isn’t compelling at all. It could be attributed to writing, but Joel Kinnaman isn’t charismatic and seems to be basing his acting off stuff he’s seen in many other police thrillers. The rest of the cops are walking and talking clichés. To be fair to Kinnaman, the scenes with him training to be Robocop and adjusting to his new life are where he really shines. Otherwise, I could care less about if he lives, dies, and becomes a robot. Michael Keaton (once known for playing Batman) seems to slumming it here. The villain is tired and (again) basing his performance on other villain roles in better movies. The usually hilarious Jay Baruchel is grossly miscast here. If you want to see Jay in a good serious performance, watch GOOD NEIGHBORS. He’s out of his element in the ROBOCOP remake!
Since the story has been adjusted from a hard R-rated 80’s flick to a modern PG-13 would-be summer blockbuster, some changes were obviously made to the original’s material. The most notable of which come in Alex being blown up by a car bomb (instead of shot up by a gang), Robocop’s black armor (as opposed to silver), and a significant lack of good action sequences. There aren’t a lot of action scenes in this ROBOCOP movie (already a bad sign) and two stand out for horrible reasons. An early flashback is shot with such off-the-wall shaky camera work that I couldn’t make out who was shooting at what. Then what could have been the film’s highlight is ruined by being shot in the dark (making for confusion with various gun blasts from unseen foes) and split between two different night-vision lenses. The problem with the latter is that these looked like a visuals from Super Nintendo video game.
ROBOCOP is a remake of a silly 80’s action flick, but never captures what made that original film so entertaining. The characters range from enjoyable to downright one-dimensional (especially in the case of Robocop himself). Most of the action scenes are downright incomprehensibly messy with obscured or shaky visuals, instead of bloody violence. The soundtrack is mighty annoying. Rushed pacing is engaged on the more interesting parts of the film, but way too much time in spent in the boring moments. At one point, Jackie Earle Haley’s character refers to Robocop as “I wouldn’t buy that for a dollar.” The same can be said about this film. Some good things aside, ROBOCOP isn’t worth a cent of your hard-earned cash. Wait for late night cable and prepare for it to put you to sleep. That’s where this tired remake belongs.