Review: Robocop (2014)

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WARNING: POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

After much hype and fan-boy trepidation the latest outbreak of Hollywood’s ‘rebootitis’ syndrome has come to the screen with this year’s Robocop remake.

Like the original, this is the story of Detroit policeman Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) who, is this version, is a Detective instead of a Patrolman. Working with his partner Jack Lewis (the criminally underused Michael K. Williams), Murphy is investigating the activities of Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow) who has managed to get his hands on weapons from the police evidence room thanks to two corrupt cops John Lake (Daniel Kash) and Andre Daniels (K.C. Collins).

While this is going on, Omnicorp (yes they renamed it) is struggling to overturn a U.S. senate ban on the deployment of drone technologies inside the country. Headed by the extremely bland and not at all scary Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), they come up with the idea of placing a man inside one of these drones as a way of getting around the ban and assuaging public concern that drones are unaccountable. After Murphy is severely wounded in a car bomb attack, Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) is brought in to turn Murphy into Robocop.

So far, so bland; not great, but not too much of a stinker either.

Unfortunately, this is where the new version goes completely off on it’s own tangent, departing from the source material so much that it’s almost a completely different movie. Some will argue that this is a good thing and I agree, if it’s done well, but from this point the movie becomes a maudlin sci-fi B-movie that tries to pass itself off as a blockbuster.

One of the things that made the original Omni-Consumer Products (OCP) corporation so villainous was that they attempted to strip Murphy of his humanity altogether, wanting to keep his crime fighting skills and killer instincts intact, but remove his compassion and Human judgement. Here, this is only done when, during a simulated hostage rescue, Murphy fails to match the reaction times of the purely robotic drone he was competing against. As a result of this, Dr. Norton reworks the surgery so that Murphy only thinks he’s in control when in ‘combat mode’, giving him and the public the illusion of Human control and accountability. Even then, it’s still very much a Human and emotional Murphy who goes home to visit his wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) and son David (John Paul Ruttan). It’s only after Murphy goes into shock after reviewing CCTV footage of the car bomb that nearly killed him, that Norton reworks Murphy’s brain chemistry to reduce his emotional responsiveness and, even then, it’s only done so that Omnicorp can roll out their new ‘product’ on time.

Comparing it with the original 1987 Robocop movie,  we can easily see that this was a waste of time and money as it simply doesn’t hold a candle to the far superior writing, acting and ideas behind the original which was a biting satire on modern consumer culture and corporate greed whereas this is just an undemanding sci-fi action flick .

Acting wise, I am sure that Kinnaman did his best but he just doesn’t compare to Peter Weller’s Alex Murphy whose acting takes us on Murphy’s journey from emotionless cyborg to Human cop using just facial expressions and the tone of his voice. As for the ‘bad guys’, it’s pretty obvious that Keaton, Oldman and Garrow just turned up to collect their cheques because all of their characters are quite bland, uninteresting and not even remotely frightening when compared to Ronny Cox’s truly amoral and wicked Dick Jones, Kurtwood Smith’s  riotously OTT Clarence Boddicker and Miguel Ferrer’s smarmy, money grubbing Bob Morton.

The producers recently and quite bravely challenged everyone to, “watch it before you shit on it.” Well I have watched it now and wouldn’t want to waste my feces on this garbage.

Do yourselves a favour and grab a copy of the original.

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