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Movie Review: 'Robocop (2014) is sleek, predictable fun'

'Robocop' remake, while predicable, is entertaining for the most part.
'Robocop' remake, while predicable, is entertaining for the most part.
W.Kang / Sony Pictures

RoboCop (2014)

Rating:
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Robocop (2014) Dir: José Padilha. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, sensuality and some drug material

This film is now playing in discount theaters, including La Mirada Movies 7 and Irvine Woodbridge Movies 5.

In the crime-ridden Detroit in the year 2028, multinational conglomerate OmniCorp, led by CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), maker of dangerously sophisticated military drones overseas, wants to use the company's controversial technology for law enforcement at the home front. However, the government's Dreyfus Act prevents the use of unmanned, dangerous drones for domestic police use. Wanting to repeal the law (and make big in profits), Sellars decides that an introduction of a part-man/part-machine police officer could be the way to show that such machines can be trustworthy if it had a human mind. When good cop and family man Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is critically injured in the line of duty, he becomes OmniCorp's cyborg prototype, Robocop. While fighting crime, Robocop struggles with his past, his humanity, and his efficient, robotic nature.

Like many fans, I did not want Paul Verhoeven's original to be remade. But, hey, it's done. Much like many of today's remakes of 80's films, this film will likely be just as well remembered as those remakes. And, what remakes were there again?

.........

To enjoy this film, one will do best not to think of this film as a remake, but a very distant cousin from another country. This film, while not as exciting, is mostly entertaining--unfortunately, it didn't help that its shared name reminds one of a much more superior film. In a poor move by the filmmakers, this film occasionally reuse the original musical theme--a less orchestral rendition of Basil Poledouris normally exciting score (not that it should even be used outside of the original).

This is a sleek, clean-looking, and very Hollywood-ish action film. The action scenes are occasionally well choreographed and looks nice. Opposed to the gritty and darker 1987 film, this one feels, stylistically, like a mixture of Iron Man, District 9, and I, Robot... and perhaps several video games, which makes it at least somewhat different from the original.

While the story is predictable, this film plays with some very interesting modern themes such as the controversial use of military drones which frequents the news lately. Other heady concepts include the idea of actual free will vs perceived free will. In addition, the film adroitly explores the power of the media, public perception, and their effect on politics. While the story doesn't go into great depth, these elements are still interesting, and perhaps deserve their own little films (just don't call it Robocop).

While Joel Kinnaman is likeable as Alex Murphy/Robocop, his character is not very memorable. Much of the dramatic elements (that was present in the original) have been replaced with visual spectacle, which made me feel less for the characters. Abbie Cornish who plays Clara, the attractive supermodel-looking wife of Murphy, looks forlorn most of the time and one wonders if she could have been used more effectively in the film. Gary Oldman, despite his one-note role, is good as always as Dr. Dennett Norton, the scientist who looks after Robocop. Samuel L. Jackson is hilarious as TV personality Patrick "Pat" Novak, host of The Novak Element and prominent supporter of mechanized crime control. Michael Keaton is a bit too likeable and fun to be the greedy CEO Raymond Sellars.

The original 1987 film had some of the most memorable and evil villains. Even the relatively good guys were quite shady. That film perhaps was more about the irony and ugliness of human nature than anything. And, when the bad guys got their just desserts, it was all the more satisfying. That kind of satisfaction is not really found here. Nor the humor. This film, aside from the cool, updated version of ED-209, lacks a truly interesting villain. As an action film, it is fairly straightforward. The fights between multiple ED-209s and Robocop is good, sci-fi fun with plenty of gun battles (although not funny like the original). The special effects are well done. The new Robocop armor design is more stylish and hip than the more clunkier original. The "clunkiness" of the original, of course, was part of the whole personality of the character (and the personality of the film). The original was no ninja like this one, for example.

Overall, this film entertains. This film could have been better, the script could have been tighter, the drama could have been stronger, the villains more interesting, humor could've been clever like the original, and the themes better explored. The fault is not so much on the film itself, perhaps, but the fact that they decided to call it Robocop, thus inviting much comparison and criticism. This film still is better than the Robocop sequels, which may or may not be saying much.