Dir: Jose Padilha
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, and Samuel L. Jackson
Synopsis:. In 2028 Detroit, when Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) – a loving husband, father and good cop – is critically injured in the line of duty, the multinational conglomerate OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer
*Reviewer Note: This is a spoiler free review, as always.*
The original Robocop wowed moviegoers back in 1987 with its heavy blend of hardcore violence, state-of-the-art special effects, and social satire, all wrapped in the hugely entertaining film of a police officer who is fatally wounded in the line-of-duty and reborn “part-man, part machine, all cop.”
Well let’s fast forward, yes forget the sequels and I’m looking more at you Robocop 3. We have a loose remake that pays the original homage here and there, but does the best it to make the movie stand on its own. It doesn’t take the full satire route that Verhoeven did but instead tries to make its own point about what it means to be a man and or a machine.
Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) is a detective who ends up in critical condition after the arms dealer he’s investigating tries to blow him up. The timing works out for the robotics company Omnicorp, which is run by Raymond Sellars (Keaton), who has been trying to figure out a way to get the American people on board with the idea of robotic law enforcement. Omnicorp has robots policing the entire world, but can’t deploy in America as Americans don’t trust robots to make life or death decisions. They want a human element, or as Sellars puts it “a man inside a machine.” Enter Alex Murphy
The actual man responsible for putting Alex in the suit is Dr. Norton (Oldman). Norton is convinced by Sellars but unlike Sellars’ lawyer Liz Kline (Jennifer Ehle) and marketing man Tom Pope (Jay Baruchel), Norton knows that this isn’t completely going to work. Norton knows that the human part will always beat the mechanical at the end of the day but all Sellars wants is his cash-cow. Nevertheless, Norton goes against his better judgment and gives Alex his “life back.”
But where the original movie merely touched on the moral issues of turning a man into a machine before murder and mayhem took center stage, the remake make the issues the prime idea. In fact, unlike the original RoboCop, Kinnaman plays a much larger role. He brings the character of Alex Murphy out more with family, which is another thing the original only touched on briefly. The family situation digs only a little deeper but gets pushed to the side once again for the action sequences and its moral question.
Since I’m talking about Kinnaman, he does a pretty descent job in the lead role. It’s almost hard for me to judge since he does most of his acting with his face. But, there are certain scenes where that’s all he needs and he really makes you feel sorry for him. His best scenes are those shared with the always dependable Gary Oldman, with Dr. Norton the film’s most interesting character, as he wrestles with the consequences of his actions. Michael Keaton’s bad guy is okay, he’s not over the top but not very menacing either. I’d say the best villain is Jackie Earle Haley, whose Maddox – a former soldier now working for OmniCorp – entertains whenever he appears. He really deserved more screen time.
The only real satirical elements to the movie is the news show called The Novak Element, in which Samuel L. Jackson character delivers agenda-heavy monologues that are pro-robot and anti-freedom. Other more nods to the original are hugely effective, from the music to the taser gun emerging from Robocop’s leg and of course some line from the original.
The action sequences are scattered throughout the movie in order to give the drama center stage. But, when the action sequences kick in they’re highly entertaining to watch. One of my favorites comes at the half way point of the movie when Alex gets a lead on the people that wanted him dead.
Besides its missteps, Robocop suffers from being named Robocop and trying to follow in the footsteps of the original. I know people won’t look over that fact and people will probably be disappointed that it isn’t satirical enough but truth of the matter is, director Jose Padilha isn’t trying to do that. Padilha is trying to make another statement. Verhoeven’s movie worked back then, and for the most part still holds up today, but this version isn’t trying to be that.
All in all, this new version of Robocop works on some levels and fails on others. While some might see it as trying to compete to the original, it is truly trying to make its own point in today’s society. It’s not a great movie but certainly not a bad one.
3 out of 5