With loads of stylized action, an interesting concept, and a metric ton of excellent actors, RoboCop falls victim to both its own mythos and the wooden acting of its title character.
A reboot of the classic 1987 film starring Peter Weller and Kurtwood Smith, Jose Padiha’s RoboCop follows the story of Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), a tough as nails Detroit cop who is gravely wounded while investigating crime boss Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow). On the other side of the story, is tech mogul Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) who is struggling against senate legislation and public opinion as he tries to tap into the lucrative American robotic drone market.
The US Senate has passed a bill that prohibits the use of drones on US soil, effectively blocking Sellars from selling his military drones to local police forces, despite the intense support of Pat Novak (Samuel L Jackson), a Glenn Beckian talk show host who uses bold political rhetoric to rouse support for the company.
What follows is pretty much just what you’d expect: Sellars convinces his brilliant robotic-scientist, Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) to put Murphy into a robotic body to bridge the gap between human and drone, and sway public opinion in his favor.
What follows is about forty minutes of Murphy dealing with the fact that he is now more robot than man, his wife (Abbie Cornish) trying to get access to him, and a whole lot of robot-killing. Now, I don’t mean to say robots killing people, I mean there is a bit of that. What I mean is that the vast majority of the deaths are those of the humanoid drones, and those that are human most are seen only through a thermal filter.
This was a big concern for me.
The original film was a hyper-violent jaunt through a futuristic Detroit with a cyborg killing machine. There were bloody deaths, and guys splattered by cars, and others were just plain exploded. But the move of the reboot from a hard R rating to a PG-13 made the levels of hyper-violence shown in the original impossible.
The next issue that came up was that I found it profoundly difficult to connect with Joel Kinnaman’s Alex Murphy. In order for me to believe that this good (albeit foolhardy) cop and loving husband/father is slowly becoming more robotic, I first have to believe that he has the ability to show emotion from the beginning, and Kinnaman simply remained stone-faced throughout. Even before the transformation, he presented minimal emotional range, so afterward there weren’t the dramatic levels of change that I felt the character needed to really sell the concept. When you surround an actor with powerhouse actors like Gary Oldman and Samuel L Jackson, any failings become exaggerated.
The last big issue I had was probably something that a lot of people will consider a bit nit-picky, but I found it really bugging me throughout. I have a hard time believing that a society that has the technology to replace limbs, and entire bodies, with advanced cybernetic prosthetics that they wouldn’t find a way to muffle the whirr of servos and pistons. Every time Murphy moved, even when he was moving around quickly, it was accompanied by the sound. It ultimately became a distraction from the otherwise well thought out gunfight scenes, and was almost obnoxious when he was trying to connect emotionally with his family.
I want to follow my previous statements by saying that while there were definite issues with the film, I still enjoyed myself. It was entertaining, the CGI was well done, and the supporting cast was astounding, but these elements, at the end of the day, just weren’t enough to counter the failings.
Bottom Line: Probably more worth a rental than a $15 movie ticket, but is not without its charm.