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Movie Review: 'Robocop' (2014) Starring Joel Kinnaman and Michael Keaton

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Remaking a nearly flawless movie is a feat few filmmakers, if any, have ever accomplished. With 2014’s “Robocop,” the audience is briefly given a taste of what a modernized, hyper-stylized, and completely new vision might achieve - but the tale of man and machine quickly regresses into a rehash that adds polish to all the wrong places and offers little of the compelling satire and adventure found in Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 masterpiece. Jose Padilha’s reimagining momentarily entices with thought-provoking examinations of free will, mind over matter, and extreme corruption, but the impact is quickly suppressed by the “too little, too late” adage. Robocop’s struggle to retain his humanity is belated from a confused plot that seems uncertain of when best to deprive him of it. His plight is further stifled by the unexplained phenomenon that conveniently allows him to prevail. Providing even less opposition is the uninspired array of villains that pose little threat and even less significance. Most disappointingly, these grievances appear even before comparisons to the original film can be presented.

In the year 2028, the use of robotic peacekeepers abroad is both effective and acceptable, yet the popular senate-backed Dreyfuss Act restricts the use of such tactics in the United States. When Detroit police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is critically injured on the job, OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) spies an opportunity to advance his company and gain favor in the public eye by creating a new kind of hero that all can support – a part-man, part-machine “Robocop.” Initially a success, the cyborg lawman’s unpredictable temperament continually impedes handler Dr. Norton’s (Gary Oldman) ability to control his creation, and as the OmniCorp scientists work to suppress Robocop’s emotions, Murphy must overcome his programming to save both his humanity and his family.

“Robocop” has never needed an upgrade (or sequels, for that matter). His design, though clunky and cumbersome, previously represented realistic expectations for a futuristic cyborg concoction – something entirely believable for audiences witnessing a technological advancement on the cutting edge of scientific accomplishments. In this cleaner, crisper, more streamlined 2028 environment, it’s no longer plausible that a severely mutilated man could be merged with metal parts to become a mechanized creature far superior to the existing forms of law enforcement. Here, it seems more likely that a fully functioning human soldier would simply don a robotic suit of armor (and then twirl about like a character in “The Matrix” or “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” with disregard to physics). The story starts right in the midst of this realization, instantly immersing viewers in this unconvincing world, refusing to gradually inform of the far-fetched biological progressions. At least ED-209’s familiar, flawed figure returns.

Whereas Verhoeven’s “Robocop” was a brilliant examination of a machine learning to become a man, this remake flips the idea to represent a man learning to become a better machine. It’s far less satisfying, with moral and ethical implications vitiated, the dangers and overreaching of cybernetics dismissed, and the theme of identity equally reversed. Alex is more of a human, retains his name and family, stays in control of his memories and emotions more often, and is introduced to the public as Detective Murphy. He’s no longer battling for his human identity and he’s not seen as a mere product or thing – he’s still a person.

The soundtrack is equally as confused, blending pieces of Basil Poledouris’ stirring orchestral tunes, rock music, a Frank Sinatra song, percussive beats, and even yodeling. The unique inclusion and satirizing of the media is also used differently here, serving to create urgency, a timeline, narration, and information on characters and scandals. Criticizing its role and influences in politics and corruption only composes a tiny percentage (with Samuel L. Jackson’s Pat Novak persona an abrasively goofy take on sarcasm). And the editing only aggravates the jumbled makeup of this recycled science-fiction actioner, resembling watching a video game player unable to work the controls properly in a first-person shooter. Jose Padilha’s “Robocop” just doesn’t have a vision or a purpose.

- The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)

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