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'Robocop' reboot flatlines

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Robocop 2014

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Brazilian director José Padilha has helped reboot the 80s classic “Robocop” into the next century with the aptly named new film, “Robocop.”

In this modern, slightly-in-the future version, Joel Kinnamen plays good cop Alex Murphy, who pursues city baddies in supposedly crime-ridden Detroit (a largely “non-gritty” Detroit that looks a lot like a fairly pleasant Canada, where the movie was, indeed, filmed). When Cop Murphy, also a husband and father, incurs the ire of a local crime lord (Antoine Vallon), he finds himself subject to a retaliatory car bomb, leaving him largely dismembered and at death’s door.

Desperate to save her husband’s life, Murphy’s wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) tearfully grants Detroit-based (and somewhat shady) robotics corporation OmniCorp the rights to save her gravely injured husband’s life. However, OmniCorp has a hidden agenda. They have secret designs on giving their scary warrior robots (that are being used in battles abroad) a human face to boost positive public perception stateside and increase domestic sales. Soon, OmniCorp’s Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), a sort of computer-age Dr. Frankenstein, is able to integrate the organic remaining parts of Murphy into a robotic supersuit, creating a new police superhero, Robocop.

While watching the film, comparisons to the original are inevitable, leading to the conclusion that the latest version is an unnecessary reimagining of the “Robocop” franchise. The original “Robocop” (the first major American film helmed by Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, who would become famous for his pulpy and often-erotic 90s films, including “Basic Instinct” and “Showgirls”) reveled in its R-rating goriness and tongue-in-cheek sendup of the decline of corporate America. Although “Robocop” (2014) commendably tries to approach a similar storyline with a PG-13 spin, its succeeds in sucking the life out of what made the original a hit.

A pall is cast over the cult humor and satire of its predecessor, as the action (Robocop often uses a taser), the bad guys (a money-focused but not stereotypically evil OmniCorp baddie, Michael Keaton), and even Robocop’s emotionally guiding partner (the sassy, humanizing Nancy Allen character from the original has been replaced by a nice, but blink a couple of times and you’ll miss him, Michael K. Williams) are all dialed way down in the reboot. Although some performances in the film are fairly strong, especially those of Robocop’s always emoting wife (Abbie Cornish) and Dr. Norton (Oldman), the film still trods along to a very predictable outcome. Unfortunately, the film’s primary grin-worthy moments (that briefly wake you from mild numbness during its 108-minute runtime) only come when you hear a character give a classic line (“I’d buy that for a dollar.”) from the original during this otherwise stale incarnation. “Robocop” (2014) is rated 2 of 5 stars.

“Robocop” is rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, sensuality and some drug material.”

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