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DVD review: 'Robocop' (2014)

'Robocop' (2014)


This examiner would like to think that most people who call themselves fans of movies have at least a passing familiarity with 'Robocop.'

'Robocop (2014)
'Robocop' (2014)

Well folks, Hollywood is at it again, remaking and modernizing a classic.

Let's see how they did.

In futuristic Detroit, police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is wounded outside his home by a car bomb. He is salvaged and resurrected as a cyborg by Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) under the instruction of OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton). To achieve the desired combat effectiveness, it is decided to alter this robot-cop's programming for his software to override his human emotion. Also playing a part in this is the fact that he is being kept from his wife and child.

Once he is ready, Murphy is released onto the streets to clean up Detroit. His human side isn't completely suppressed and he starts to investigate his own murder.

What will be revealed in his quest to know the truth? Is he more human or more robot?

Whereas the original film had the luxury of drawing upon Reagan-era America and capitalism, this decides to stick closer to more timely concerns like media fear-mongering and drone strikes. Actually, the most-explored theme here involves free will versus programming.

The differing time periods of the films are also evident by the visual approaches. The new Robocop design is a sleek, dark look instead of the classic metal look. Also worth mentioning is that this film features a protagonist whose visor is up more often than not which (in this film) signifies that Murphy is in control instead of his CPU. There isn't as much commitment to the concept of the protagonist being a full-time robot.

The coolest image from the entire film is where Murphy is shown, via full-length mirror, just what is left of his body. Though the effect isn't entirely convincing (once again, practical effects would have gone a long way) it gets the job done. There is a nice plot twist revealed toward the end that adds an iota of intrigue.

One would think that an action film would have more going on than is contained here. After the explosion, there are a few simulated gunfight sequences, and some real ones toward the end (along with some robotic action). There simply isn't enough substantial excitement on the screen. Too much time is devoted to Murphy moping around about being kept from his family and veteran actors chewing the scenery.

Perhaps worst of all is that it takes so long to present us with a clear antagonist. There is a figure who is assigned blame early on and is completely dropped for a long stretch. Resolution to his part in this film is abrupt and unsatisfying.

Kinnamon is without any charisma. Keaton has some fun with the role while Oldman just seems to be going through the motions. Sam Jackson is entertaining enough as a demonstrative news anchor. With all of the talent, the project reeks of people working for the paycheck.

As is usually the case with these remakes, 'Robocop' doesn't do nearly enough to justify its existence.

Someone should have just pulled the plug on this before it got off of the assembly line.

Rated PG-13 118 minutes 2014

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