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Review - Robocop

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Happy Valentine’s Day, here’s a remake of Robocop!

In a world of lots of sequels and remakes, here’s another, with the popular 80s action staple getting a new coat of paint and a big budget. Robocop, like its original, is the tale of a police officer whose turned into part machine after a horrific incident. Well, part machine isn’t really right. Robocop is 95% machine, a hand, random organs and the head of a man. Said man is Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), one of the seemingly few non-corrupt people walking the streets for the good guys in 2028 Detroit. After getting his nose into the business of a few baddies, Alex gets blown up real good; death seeming the only option.

However, Alex is the perfect candidate for OmniCorp, a robot manufacturer who ships its product worldwide in “peace-keeping” missions. Everyone on the globe we’re told has the mechanical guys roaming the streets, except in the United States, where a senatorial bill has long kept robots from taking the place of cops and military soldiers. The reason for this is a fear that there is no cognitive consideration for the duties.

OmniCorp head Raymond Sellars (a delightful Michael Keaton) sees Alex as a hybrid to get around the nation’s laws. Positive that if America sees Alex melded into machine, cleaning the land of drug-dealers and murderers, they will change their tune on all things mechanical.

Robocop is an odd beast, rarely bad or good. Ho-hum is kind of the perfect description. The movie, directed by Jose Padilha (Elite Squad) and scripted by first time screenwriter Joshua Zetumer, never hangs on one theme or idea long enough to be captivating. At times, the movie is about Alex’s adjustment to his new scenario, questioning whether or not he’s even still a man. He frets over how his wife (an underused Abbie Cornish) and son will view him. Before that has time to resonate, Robocop goes on a screed about drones and a need for a powerful, physically intimidating force to be used to keep the nation safe. It says a few words there and then becomes a slick action movie. Then it meditates on the ego of science and where it meets morality. It concerns all of these things, and throws in the wild notion of being able to see nearly all crimes happening at once and what that would do to a person.

A lot is thrown at the wall and the details of each aren’t properly painted in. As such, Robocop is flat on the screen, even with a fun ensemble cast and compelling action. Keaton as mentioned is good, but so are the greedy and arrogant Jackie Earle Haley and Jay Baruchel. Jennifer Ehle is steely as Keaton’s number two, while Gary Oldman gives a nice bit of gravitas to the conflicted doctor who puts Alex back together again. Kinnaman isn’t as notable as the titular fellow. Memorable as the sweet if skuzzy detective on “The Killing,” here Kinnaman mostly has the bland nice guy to play and doesn’t do anything with it. Admittedly, the part, as written, isn’t much. We get a lot of stoic, solemn looks and little else.

As for how it compares to the Paul Verhoeven version, with all of its guts, blood and societal rage; it’s a different beast. This Robocop isn’t an empty can, all action and no brains. Instead, what we have here is a muddled film, ambitious at times but without the nuance or skill to say something interesting.

Robocop opens wide all across Seattle tomorrow.

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