Review by Daniel Rester
“Your move, creep.” Or: Your move, remake. RoboCop is the latest remake of a 1980s film, and it’s just in time for Valentine’s Day. Just last year we had A Good Day to Die Hard on V Day. Is the romantic holiday the new home base for action flicks or something?
Anyways, here we have RoboCop, a reimagining of the 1987 Paul Verhoeven classic. This one comes to us from Brazilian director Jose Padilha and stars Joel Kinnaman in the metal suit. It is also graced with having a supporting cast that includes Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Abbie Cornish, Michael K. Williams, Jay Baruchel, and Jackie Earle Haley. There is a good mix of talent here.
This RoboCop puts us in 2028, with the company Omnicorp attempting to use mechanical soldiers for protection of the people on U.S. soil. However, public opinion and the Dreyfus Act prevent this. This leads Omnicorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Keaton) to enlist scientist Dennett Norton (Oldman) to try and create a “law enforcement product” made of both man and machine. Sellars believes that this method could sway opinions in favor of his products – as the new cop would have human consciousness.
Enter Alex Murphy (Kinnaman), a Detroit cop who gets caught up in a bad situation and is seriously injured by a car bomb. He soon becomes the prototype for Sellars’ experiment. After waking up, Murphy learns to fight crime as this new Robocop, but he is also interested in solving his own case involving the car bomb.
There have been a lot of atrocious remakes of 80s films over the past few years, but RoboCop is not half bad. The film benefits from taking many different turns than the original did; it doesn’t try to be a carbon copy. The sharp satire and bloody action of the 1987 film are missed (this version is PG-13), but the new ideas the remake brings to the table are pretty welcome. This version presents more of a political agenda and has Murphy dealing with more inner conflict, which adds some nice touches to the story.
There are only a few major problems that the remake actually has. One is that it runs out of steam far too quickly. A few scenes of Murphy training could have easily been cut out, which could have made the film more lean and mean.
Another issue is that the villains are not too menacing, though it is fun to watch Keaton in this type of role. It is especially entertaining when he and Oldman are onscreen together.
And, finally, Kinnaman is only okay in the lead. The actor does have some great scenes, but I don’t see him becoming a big action hero. He actually seems too robotic as a human before he ever even gets in the suit.
Aside from the cool story changes, RoboCop has many other things that it does right. The supporting cast helps a lot, with Oldman standing out and adding the right amount of heart to the proceedings. Jackson is also fun as a news anchor, though his political messages become a bit obvious after a while.
There are a couple of thrilling action sequences as well, including a robot showdown near the end that really puts the pedal to the metal. Padilha handles these scenes very well, often using tricky camerawork and a strong focus on movement. The visual effects and overall look are mostly dynamite, including a kickass black suit for Murphy.
RoboCop provides some pretty good sci-fi and action escapism. The film is no standout like the 1987 film, but it also (surprisingly) isn’t a terrible remake. I’d say see it at a matinee price or rent it if you have some slight interest. You could do a lot worse for 80s remakes right now.
My Score: 2 ½ out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: B-).
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, sensuality, and some drug material).
Runtime: 1 hour and 48 minutes.