It’s not hard to make fun of a premise like “RoboCop”’s. The film, a remake of an ’80s classic, is taken from the idea of mashing two subjects into one and calling it a day. Despite such a premise, this reimagining of “RoboCop” gives a seriousness to the story — while preserving the fun of its ludicrous idea — making a solid action film that suffers from minor imperfections.
After policeman Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is severely injured in an attempt on his life, he becomes resurrected by Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) through an artificial body. Norton’s funders — OmniCorp, led by CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) — want to use Murphy’s new body to turn him into a crime-stopping machine, effectively using his success to springboard the use of drones to protect the people.
“RoboCop” starts the plot by establishing heavy themes, such as the dominance of machines in exchange for restrictions on human rights. It’s not long, however, until these themes take a backseat to the origin of the title character. It’s almost a shame, considering the opening sequence plays with great visual representations of repression. The parody of politics in “RoboCop” plays out quietly in the background and doesn’t get in the way of RoboCop delivering sweet justice. It would make for a more meaningful and relevant movie had the character’s tale been more intertwined with how machines cohabit with ordinary citizens. The film alludes to this but mostly leaves those elements to the imagination.
Director Jose Padilha keeps the action moving. The visuals and the design of RoboCop and the other machines are sleek and memorable. The cinematography is occasionally shoddy, mostly due to some irritating usage of shaky camera. While the action sequences are decent, several shots of RoboCop’s point of view makes the scenes play out more like a videogame than a well-crafted action montage.
The acting is subpar and dull. Kinnaman is a blank slate for the audience to project the fantasy of being RoboCop on. He gets a pass, though, considering a plot point makes him emotionally sterile. When he does convey emotion, he spends it pondering whether he is more man or machine, although the brief bout of agony he suffers through doesn’t make up for stale acting. Samuel L. Jackson’s role as a conservative talk show host and supporter of the drone program is the film’s most memorable role. He provides comic relief and serves as a great satirical embodiment of a public voice for the American people.
“RoboCop” isn’t a perfect action movie, but it plays out as good, dumb fun while faintly pointing out some serious ethical questions about man and technology. Fans of the original may see this remake as an unneeded update, but the film stands up alright on its own as a
gritty sci-fi flick.