Wednesday, February 12, 2014

REVIEW: Robocop (2014)

Director: Jose Padilha
Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman, Samuel L Jackson, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earl Haley
Rated: PG-13

We're gonna give American a product they can love, a figure they can rally behind.
                                                     ~Raymond Sellars
2014's new model of Robocop is a well-acted affair of action mediocrity that has a few interesting ideas and attempts topical relevance, but is largely pedestrian and ultimately forgettable.  It never reaches goofy realms that the previous follow ups to Robocop had, but at least those films had some guts, took chances and attempted to make a mark.  This new rendition is a completely safe affair that seems to worry too much about being slick and over explaining how everything in Robocop's world works.  Much like Paul Verhoeven's other remade work Total Recall, its another shining example that maybe we should leave his stuff alone (unless he wants to come back to it) as he seems to be the only one that truly understands how to make them work.
Remake-ocop's new take is a commentary about drones, and Robocop is ultimately the tool that will make the public and politicians swing their opinion on them.  Alex Murphy...he's a cop who's getting dangerously close to taking down a big crime boss that ultimately will reveal a lot of corruption in the Detroit Police Department.  Murphy is taken out via a car bomb.  Murphy, by the consent of his wife, becomes the candidate to be the first Robocop.
One of the biggest shames of this film and its greatest strength is that its well cast and well acted.  I'm a big fan of Joel Kinnaman and I thought he was fine as Murphy.  The greatest joy in this movie comes from watching Earth 1 Batman and Earth 2 Commissioner Gordon square off.  Of course I'm talking about Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman.  Gary Oldman once again gives a damn fine performance wasted on a poor movie.  He and Keaton's commitment to the material at times may have you mistaking this for a solid movie at times.  Fear not, you're quickly reminded.  Michael K Williams is absolutely wasted here as the gender and race bended partner Lewis, who really need not have even been named Lewis...but I guess that's a wink to the fans.
This new Robocop flips the script and has this one dealing with a man coping with being a machine as opposed to a machine trying to discover what is was like to once be human.  So, there's much more involvement and interaction with family post-creation.  The problem being, we spend so much time on Robo's training and construction, after taking a bit to get there, that when Robocop appears for the first time there's not a whole lot of time to cover all the ground they're attempting to confront.  Every little plot point and storyline for Robocop once he returns to Detroit is ultimately rushed and entirely shallow.  When he's first set in place its pretty much a race to the finish.  Some stuff and issues show up, but are barely touched upon and onto the next thing as soon as they show their face.
One place that this film could have at least redeemed itself is in the action.  But, like a lot of PG-13 movies that come from R-rated inspirations, it was generic and uninteresting.  I understand the limitations of PG-13, but this movie should have done its best to push them.  It was extremely tame.  Robocop now prefers the use of the obviously PG-13 friendly taser gun.  There's no creative kills or vicious ones, its all just gun shots and falling down.  Nothing to shock you, make you jump or get squeemish.  There were some effects with the action that reminded me of the old game Virtua Cop and the violence is pretty much equal in tame-ness with that game (if you remember it).  Also in the field of not having balls, the character Jay Baruchel played, all the way to the costuming and the beard, just SCREEEAAAMMMED yuppy coke-head.  It seemed perfect to have a scene of that guy loading up on some blow.  If this had been an 80s movie, you KNOW that would have been included.
The villains in this new rendition are incredibly lame and boring.  I think the movie thinks so too.  For as much time as we have to spend on Robo's training and test operations, the film's villain who is responsible for Murphy's assassination attempt is relatively vanilla and an incredibly throw away character.  We should be pumped to see Murphy go after him, but we barely know squat about him and the actor brings so much nothing to it (in a film that is rather well performed, he's not terrible, not an incredibly weak link, but the guy's plainness sticks out), its a relatively joyless and uninteresting affair when it comes to ahead.  And the result is even more dull and offensive.
Robocop's 2014 make-over wanted to serve a purpose and say something, but ultimately it was just a little table dressing for a kind of boring generic sci-fi aciton film.  It's a well acted snoozer that has no balls and plays it far too safe, as exampled by using the original series canon's theme song in spots.  I didn't really take issue with any of Robocop's looks or outfits (I kind dig the new visor), but the original costume will always be king.  After Total Recall and then Robocop, I think its safe to say when it comes across some execs desk, they should do well to just leave Starship Troopers alone.

RATING - 2 out of 5

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