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Review: Director confidently brings 'Robocop' into 21st century

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The violence has only been lowered a bit, but the message has been amped up a lot in the remake of Paul ver Hoeven’s classic sci-fi action classic Robocop which opened Wednesday (Feb. 12).

Twenty-six years removed from the original, the message of corporate indifference and takeover still drips all over Jose Padiha’s vision of the film, but he goes on to tackle the surveillance state and the culture of fear that dominates American and by osmosis the world.

It’s a frightening vision that presents America at a tipping point in its history in 2028, when in actuality some might argue that’s the case now.

In the Middle East the military grade robots of Omnicorp keep the locals in line there as the right-wing media – given voice and face by Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson in a bit of casting irony) – bangs away at the Senate to repeal a law that bans robots from the country’s streets.

That just doesn’t suit the needs of the CEO of Omnicorp, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), and he implores his lead scientist, Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldham) to use his work in robotics for amputees to create a human-robot hybrid that would pass muster legally.

After Det. Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is blown up and burned over 80 percent of his body by a criminal that he and his partner Jack (Michael K. Williams of Boardwalk Empire) have been investigating, they find their man.

Here’s where Padiha and screenwriter Joshua Zeturner make some interesting and very different choices in their edition of Robocop.

The original dealt with whether Murphy would ever get his humanity back after being turned into a human cyborg. Here it’s a question of whether he will be able to keep it after his humanity interferes with his ability to police efficiently enough for Omnicorp to be able to mass produce the units.

That gives Robocop its heart. The intelligence and the wit that comes with it force the audience to ask questions about the world and country in which we live.

Kinnaman proves to be a confident and compelling performer giving Murphy vivid life. He’s a newcomer to American films, but there’s little problem in assuming he will be seen again in theaters here.

Oldham is Oldham. He’s incapable of a bad performance. That’s the guy’s modus operandi and will remain so until he stops acting.

It is, however, refreshing to see Keaton back on the screen. He’s very selective with roles and that’s admirable, but he’s one of those actors who has always been fun to watch because he throws himself into roles.

Padiha will find himself in demand after Robocop. He not only delivers action, but he provides mind candy to chew upon making Robocop one of but a few films thus far in the new year to be worth the price of admission.

Movie: Robocop
Director: Jose Padiha
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldham, Michael Keaton, Michael K. Williams, Samuel L. Jackson
Studio: Columbia
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, sensuality and some drug material.
Running time: 105 minutes
George’s rating: 3.5-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com

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