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'RoboCop' puts a fresh spin on an old friend

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'RoboCop' movie review

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While watching the latest ‘RoboCop’ movie, apprehension sets in and I begin to fear that this remake will tarnish the image of the crime fighting part-man/part-robot hero of the past. But then I hear the loud thump, as he takes his first steps followed by the familiar theme song playing and suddenly a wave of nostalgia overtakes me. Once again I’m viewing the larger than life champion as he battles the criminal element on the big screen.

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The story takes place in the year 2020 and once again, ‘Robocop’ is pitted against criminal forces and the duplicitous multinational conglomerate OminiCorp (the world leaders in robot technology) in the city of Detroit. OminiCorp drones have been used overseas by the military for years, but have been forbidden for law enforcement in America. Now OmniCorp wants to bring their controversial technology to the home front, and they see a golden opportunity to do it. When Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) a loving husband, father and good cop doing his best to stem the tide of crime and corruption in Detroit - is critically injured, OmniCorp sees their chance to build a part-man, part-robot police officer. OmniCorp envisions a RoboCop in every city and even more billions for their shareholders, but they never counted on one thing: there is still a man inside the machine.

Director Jose Padilha takes on this legendary film and is able to deliver a fresh and innovative concept. Padilha who is a trained physicist creates a movie filled with action, adventure, and humor by integrating sophisticated motion and composites into scenes. The result is a film that is not too far-fetched. Of course, it helps that he has assembled an all-star cast. The talent group includes, Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earl Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Actor Joel Kinnaman (‘The Killing’, ‘Safe House’) stars as detective Alex Murphy. The Swedish born actor slips easily into the role and breathes new life into the well-known character. He is able to convey a vulnerability not seen in his predecessor Peter Weller (the 1987 ‘RoboCop’ original version). He also works well with his partner and co-star Michael K. Williams (‘12 Years a Slave’, ‘Boardwalk Empire ‘) as Det. Jack Williams. Their chemistry shows as they interact on the screen. The audience is able to believe that they are friends and partners who support each other.

Oscar® nominee Gary Oldman, who plays Norton a bionic engineer, is the Dr. Frankenstein to Alex’s monster. He assumes the role of father as he readies Alex to take on the criminals in Detroit. Because of their relationship, Norton is torn between his job as the scientist behind Robocop at OmniCorp and his duty to protect Alex.

Unlike the previous version, the audience is allowed to learn more about Det. Murphy’s home life and witness the impact that his accident has on the family unit. This realistic and intimate view allows them to connect with the main character. In fact, the love between Alex’s wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) is the bond that holds them together. The anguished looks by Clara remind the audience of her family’s loss and struggle to cope with their changing circumstances.

‘RoboCop’ is filled with humorous scenes amidst the action. For example, Oscar® nominated Samuel L. Jackson’ s character who is political commentator, Pat Novak is a cross between Al Sharpton and Rush Limbaugh. He wields a theatrical spin on the news with antics emphasizing the absurdity of the state of the events telecast to the viewing public.

The special effects created by James E. Price are superior in the film. For the film’s visual effects, the filmmakers created three main categories of robots. The EM-208s were the humanlike foot soldiers. The ED 209-are the hyper-aggressive killing machines. Unlike the original RoboCop,’ the filmmakers used stop motion animation for the ED-209 with mechanical movements and backward facing knees that give it a futuristic look. And the final robot is ‘RoboCop’ himself. His is updated by creating a suit that weighed forty-five pounds and was so form-fitting that it didn’t allow Kinnaman to wear clothes underneath. It is showcased in two forms, a sculpted black stealth version and blue and silver titanium (reminiscent of the original suit). The improvements have a positive impact on the overall effect of the character. It updates the personality but does not reduce the appeal of the favorite hero.

‘Robocop’ proves that is possible to revisit a beloved motion picture without diminishing the nostalgic aura of the film. This new version creates a futuristic world filled with action-adventure. It is well-worth a trip down memory lane.

‘RoboCop’ has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, sensuality and some drug material. The film will be released in theaters nationwide on February 12, 2014.

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