Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman ) is a cop – a bloody good one at that – but unfortunately he gets blown up and what’s left of him is encased in metal. Lo, he becomes Robocop: a cybernetic force of good who kicks ass and eats bad guys for breakfast.
Therein lies the basic premise of both the original and new Robocop, and in the case of Paul Verhoevens schlocky Eighties classic, a razor sharp rumination on themes as varied as political corruption, authoritarianism and human nature; chock-full of satire, wonderfully gory action and, most importantly, oodles of fun.
Although this new reimagining does touch base with all the above, it never quite comes close to mathching it in any meaningful way, let alone surpassing it. But, after a spree of awful and pointless remakes recently (Total Recall, anyone?), Robocop is actually, when all is said and done, not bad at all.
Much like the central character himself, Robocop (2014) is a well put together, glossy bit of kit; but ultimately you have to question how much free will director José Padilha actually had in its genesis, and how much of its DNA was imposed by the suited bods in the office upstairs.
Narratively it’s smart and snappy and it can’t be denied that much thought has clearly gone into the story, which deviates from the original in some new and interesting ways. Likewise, it looks great, with top level effects and shiny cinematography making it consistently entertaining to watch. However, tonally it veers wildly and that’s where the main problems appear.
Specifically, it often seems like the filmmakers couldn’t decide what they wanted the film to be, so they just crammed all the ideas in there for good measure: one minute it’s soft and mournful, next it’s all whizz bang spectacle, then a bit of ham- handed political satire for luck. Although it’s hard to fault the intent, the sometimes sharp philosophical musings just don’t sit well with the loud, often forgettable action and are often undermined by it. Likewise, the strange decision to use the original theme music is very distracting and feels like it’s trying to remind you of the original, rather than give the new film something of its own.
That being said, Padilha has assembled a great cast here and they all make a good effort with the material they’re given. A particular tip of the hat must go to Michael Keaton as the dodgy CEO with the lion’s share of the decent lines, and his partner, Gary Oldman, who shares most of the screen time with Keaton as the good-egg Doctor. Both light up the screen, and it’s easy to imagine that the film would be half of what it is without their efforts. Likewise, Samuel L. Jackson is a pleasure to watch in his small role, hamming it up as a Rush Limbaugh-like political commentator.
So it’s a fairly entertaining movie then, mostly elevated by some good performances and slick gloss, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that it could have been so much more if only they’d just let it be a little more… human.