Movie Advisor: RoboCop

Director: José Padilha
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Samuel L Jackson
Duration: 118 mins
Rating: M
Release Date: February 6, 2014

The New Daily says: “Shock, horror! A Hollywood remake of a cult classic from days gone by? Yes, it’s been done before … done many times, actually, with varying degrees of success. Think Clash of the Titans, Dawn of the Dead, Friday the 13th … the list goes on. RoboCop becomes the second remake of a Paul Verhoeven feature in the past couple of years, the other being the disappointing 2012 version of Verhoeven’s 1990 blockbuster, Total Recall.

Costing just $13 million to make, Verhoeven’s original 1987 RoboCop was a surprise international hit, grossing more than $53 million worldwide. Fast forward 27 years, and while the budget for the 2014 version has been increased to a whopping $130 million, the original story line remains fairly faithful to the original.

With billions in potential profits to be made, the OmniCorp group is desperate to convince the American public that its robots are the future of law enforcement. However, voters are none-too-keen on the idea of human emotion being taken out of the justice system … so a compromise is needed. Enter Detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), who is almost killed by a car bomb planted by a local crime boss. Murphy is given a second chance at life when his wife (Aussie Abbie Cornish) signs a consent form permitting his participation in OmniCorp’s robotic experiment … and RoboCop is born.

While much of the $130 million budget was no doubt spent on a dazzling array of special effects and action sequences, there’s no doubt a large chunk was also allocated to the assembly of a brilliant ensemble cast including Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton and Samuel L Jackson.

While that probably raises expectations for a film that otherwise could have gone straight through to the ‘keeper, largely, the big name trio delivers. Oldman acts as the moral compass with his turn as Dr Dennett Norton, the scientist who brings RoboCop to life, while Keaton is craftily charismatic as the morally-bankrupt OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars. As the talk show host/chief OmniCorp propagandist, Pat Novak, Jackson brings levity and humour — maybe a Fox News host of the future?”

Aussie influence ... Abbie Cornish at the RoboCop premiere in London.

Aussie influence … Abbie Cornish at the RoboCop premiere in London.

Ultimately, though, this movie hangs on the performance of the title character — and it’s difficult to develop an emotional attachment for Kinnaman as either Murphy or RoboCop. Maybe director José Padilha was trying to channel the genius of the Wachowski brothers, with their selection of the monotonic Keanu Reeves for the starring role of Neo in the Matrix trilogy? Believe it or not, though, the expressionless Kinnaman is too robotic for a role that has as its foundation a man’s quest to regain his humanity. As Murphy’s wife, Cornish’s Clara Murphy seems almost an afterthought, when she really should have been the focal point of RoboCop’s difficult journey.

The Hollywood Reporter says: Neither the complete disaster some might have been anticipating nor any kind of cinematic landmark, the 2014 remake of RoboCop is a solid piece of mainstream entertainment that honors the legacy of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 original, and is certainly better than the last attack on a Verhoeven film, 2012’s Total Recall.

Variety says: Shifting the prime target of its satire from corporate greed to post-9/11 jingoism, this well-cast, smarter-than-expected remake repairs much of the damage done to the iron-fisted lawman’s reputation by meat-headed sequels and spinoffs; it’s a less playful enterprise than the original, but meets the era’s darker demands for action reboots with machine-tooled efficiency and a hint of soul.

Total Film says: Yep, it’s a tricky business remaking a classic. Stick too close to the source material and you render yourself redundant; veer too far away and you risk the wrath of hardcore fans. That most of the rumours are pretty much spot on means RoboCop v.2014 comes dangerously close to the latter. But while it may well irk some of the faithful, it might just win a few over, too. 4/5

Kids? No problem for your teenagers, but taking your primary school student might be stretching it.

See it: After re-watching the original 1987 version. You’ll get a whole new appreciation for the modern marvels of cinema special effects.

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