Robocop: Movie Review
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Abbie Cornish, Samuel L Jackson, Michael Keaton
Director: Jose Padihla
Amid the cries of the fanboys whose very youthful existence was enhanced by the original Paul Verhoeven Robocop, comes the 2014 reboot / remake.
In RoboCop, the year is 2028 and multinational conglomerate OmniCorp is at the centre of robot technology. Overseas, their drones have been used by the military for years, but have been forbidden for law enforcement in America. Now OmniCorp wants to bring their controversial technology to the home front, and they see a golden opportunity to do it.
When Alex Murphy (The Killing star Joel Kinnaman) – a loving husband, father and good cop doing his best to stem the tide of crime and corruption in Detroit – is critically injured, OmniCorp sees their chance to build a part-man, part-robot police officer. OmniCorp envisions a RoboCop in every city and even more billions for their shareholders, but they never counted on one thing: there is still a man inside the machine....
The Robocop 2014 movie is to be frank, a mixed noisy beast of a film.
Starting with robots patrolling Tehran and clearing the streets, while the stereotyped Iranian suicide bombers plot their attacks on live TV before switching to political machinations within Detroit, it's a queasy journey. The nub is that the American robots can do this abroad, but pesky legislation prevents them from protecting their own on the streets. In fact, if anything, this remake is more concerned with the ethical and moral dilemmas than the kill despatching cop in a suit, hell bent on revenge.
But it's the personal which becomes the most muddled mix in this ultra-violent, yet somehow wholly bloodless cacophony of gun fire style blockbuster. TV's The Killing's Joel Kinnaman's Alex Murphy is essentially trying to solve his own murder when a local kingpin and gun runner blows him up for getting too close to nabbing him; but he's left to do it in an emotionless robotic way that very rarely connects with the audience (despite him being a robot, there's still a chance for him to showcase the human side in a way Peter Weller did).
Attempts to ground this Robocop in a family - complete with moppet haired kid and doting blonde wife Clara (Abbie Cornish who never really gets enough dramatic meat to get to grips with) - are a mixed blessing, with the director choosing to lean on them as a dramatic crutch when it suits the story, rather than utilising them in a way that explores rather than exploits the situation. The scenes where Alex is reunited with his family ground the film but it's almost as if they don't know what to do with it (even though the son isn't sure of his dad, who's now a walking Transformer!) And in fact, they cut away before Alex and Clara spend time together, frustrating you as to how the relationship will go (even though Alex says "Daddy's suit needs some special handling"....the mind boggles) and how it can even progress or see the pair reconnect. It's an emotional misfire that's indicative of moments of the film and which means it stays disconnected from its audience.
So, it's down to the sharp bursts of combat violence and impressive FX for director Padihla to show off his skills; and in places, he does so admirably. Shots of the reality of what's left of Alex when the suit comes off are shocking - and are perfectly played by Kinnaman and Gary Oldman's Doctor. Equally, a first action montage demonstrating the full capability of the suit in action against a series of Cylon like robots from Omnicorp are akin to a video game (despite the attempts to derail it with some incredibly OTT music) but the initial goodwill is lost as other sequences creak under CGI constraints.
Ultimately, Robocop delivers a fairly hollow, emotionless, incredibly loud and noisy blockbuster experience that will potentially irritate fans of the original violence drenched Paul Verhoeven Robocop; with a lower style rating, it's clearly aimed at a wider audience. While that doesn't exactly make it a Roboflop, it does feel more of a sanitised experience than perhaps it should have been, lacking in emotional byte.