“RoboCop” is a futuristic, action movie that is more of a redo than a remake of the original film of the same name that was released in 1987. It’s as if the studio said “That was a cool idea and concept and now that we have better technology, we can make it really good.” The movie opens with Samuel L. Jackson as Pat Novak, a host of a cable news show, who sets up the world environment for the audience. According to Novak, every other country in the world has removed human police officers and uses robots to control violence in a city. He shows how effective it is, yet a Congressman has passed a bill that outlaws that type of law enforcement in the United States. According to the bill, a robot doesn’t have feelings that a human has and won’t feel remorse, excitement, or pride. Both sides of the debate are understandable and, because of that, we believe that this world could exist.
Alex Murphy, played by Joel Kinnaman, is a good police officer in Detroit and is on a hot case when suddenly, he is injured in the line of duty. He is selected by the company that makes the police robots, headed by Raymond Sellars played by Michael Keaton, to become a half man/half machine police officer. Gary Oldman plays the doctor at the company who controls Murphy’s progress as he turns into RoboCop.
That’s enough about the plot because you probably knew all of that if you saw the original film. However, I will review this film on its own merits and not make too many comparisons to the original. The look of the film, directed by Jose Padilha, is very slick without being over the top. The city doesn’t look too different from a modern day city and there are a lot of first person views from RoboCop. When there is a gun battle, we are watching it like we play a video game. Targets are acquired and the shooting begins, it’s pretty cool looking and the pace is fast making the action fun to watch.
The casting is also top notch for the most part. Samuel L. Jackson has a great costume and has a hilarious demeanor with some memorable lines. It was also great to see Michael Keaton return to a meaningful role. He is a visionary, almost a Steve Jobs type. Kinnaman’s attempt at Alex Murphy is nothing to write home about and could’ve been played by anyone, and that’s the point in some ways. The real star is Gary Oldman. I know that I shouldn’t be surprised to see a great performance by Oldman, but he raises the bar for the other actors when they are in scenes with him. This is yet again another reason we should consider him one of the best actors working today.
The problem with the modern RoboCop is that it lacks an attempt to evoke any type of feeling or emotion from its audience. There was also a chance for the film to deliver some kind of social commentary, however it would rather be a better looking version of its predecessor. Action, explosions, motorcycle chases replace character development too often and we leave the film having a good time for two hours but not learning or being surprised by much.
This modern attempt at RoboCop is not terrible, nor is it a great take on a previously told story. It is simply good enough. His armor is black this time and the film looks great and the action scenes are shot well. This is a good escape from the world and a fine popcorn flick, however when looking at it seriously, it’s just empty calories.