RoboCop Review 7th Feb 2014-02-07
RoboCop Review 7th Feb 2014-02-07
It has been said that culture and fashion lap us every 30 years. So, it can hardly be argued at this point that the 80’s are indeed BACK. For better or (often) worse, Transformers, Ninja Turtles and bad hair dos are here to stay. With that, Hit 66 Presents our FIRST online film review in the form of the 80’s remake, RoboCop.
Set just 14 years in the future (2028), the U.S. has deployed unmanned drones and robot solders to keep ‘the peace’ overseas. Yet the American public are unconvinced that such extremes would be welcome on home soil. With this and dollar signs ringing in his head, Omnicorp boss Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) decides that the people need a Robo hero to rally behind and sets out to turn a man into a machine. Enter Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) a recently injured cop (due to a failed mob hit). With the help of Robo Doctor Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), Murphy becomes the MAN/DRONE Omnicorp needs to get the American public behind Sellars Robot army.
Far from the 80’s satire and cartoonish hyper violence of Paul Verhoeven’s original, the 2014 version is much more an essay on the military status of America in a post 9/11, Patriot Act world. Or at least it tries to be. It also touches on the corporate perspective of what a product IS and how to SELL it, even if that product is a killing machine. Case and point, when Omnicorp marketing whiz kid Tom Pope (Jay Baruchel) shows Sellars the MACH 1 Sliver RoboCop, saying it scored high in focus groups, he retorts, ‘People don’t know what they want till you show it to them. Make it more tactical....Black’ RoboCop is, in this moment, Coke Zero.
The cast do well enough, with a strong and thoughtful script obviously drawing in a couple of all-stars (Samuel L. Jackson’s ULTRA RIGHT WING news man Pat Novak is a joy). Gary Oldman is always watchable and plays his good-guy-forced-to-do-bad-things Doctor with just the right amount of regret and pathos. Keaton manages to twist and contort his face and body, delivering lines proudly, with a mouth full of ham. And Jackie Earle Haley (Rick Mattox) is confidant as the Pro Drone, Marine nut bag. However, in the thankless role of grieving wife, Abbie Cornish (Clara Murphy) is left out in the dark in what is basically a ‘boys club.’ The young (somewhat unknown)Joel Kinnaman as Robo himself, is tall, strong and looks the part in all his Robo badness. He does seem altogether wooden in the more emotional ‘family’ moments, but pulls out a stunning performance when faced with the TRUTH of what has REALLY been done to his body.
Director Jose Padilha has some fresh ideas and touches of genius (a fire fight lit only by muzzle flashes is a stand out) but he does resort to a shaky, handheld style in majority of the battle scenes. The CGI is minimal but when it is used (mostly during the RoboCop verses multiple ED 209 climax) it sadly doesn’t measure up to a decent episode of Smallville. Saying that, the message is clear and the editing sharp, making the 2 hour long run time crack along at a solid pace. Give Padilha a shot at the sequel and we’ll see.
With its modern vibe and tongue miles away from its cheek, the Robo Reboot is if nothing else, a good bit of action/sci-fi. And giving Murphy a family to play off this time gives the character a new feel for a new century. It does raise some interesting questions about underhanded corporate tactics and the running of the military BUSINESS in the United States but offers little in the way of answers.
But then again, it’s got lots of stuff blowing up.