Dir: Jose Padilha
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman
Rating: ** 1/2
There are two shocking things in the new Robocop movie — a) It’s way better than you expect it to be, and b) It’s quite different from the original movie. Now the problem is, with that shock value comfortably delivered to the viewer in the first ten minutes, it fails to make use of the opportunity to become a great movie. Instead, it slips through the trapdoor of clichés, poor writing, lame characterisation, and just insufficient action mayhem.
A still from Robocop
The opening segment of Robocop is perhaps one of the most interesting science fiction buildups in recent memory.
Robots have taken over a futuristic Iran and are helping the American government keep terrorism in check. A battle breaks out between Jihadists and robots, and a drone, after suppressing the terrorists, also ends up killing a child.
The question of using robots instead of humans in a battlefield arises — is it ethical to use something that doesn’t feel anything in matters of life and death? At this point, you’re think that this will be an interesting movie and a slap in the face of those who don’t believe in classic remakes. Almost immediately after that prologue, the message is crystal clear — nope, this is just another lame reboot.
Had it continued the cerebral, visceral mode of its prologue, Robocop would have been a classic. It’s directed by Jose Padilha, who made the excellent Tropa De Elite in Brazil, and if there was anyone who could make an intelligent action movie, it’s him. Sadly the studios seemed to have interfered with his vision because the film tries to ask a lot of ethical questions, and tries to delve into the psychological barriers of robots entering humans’ social life, and it fails.
The film eventually becomes a passable CGI demo at best and a sloppily edited hack job at worst.
The new film has a decent cast, including Joel Kinnaman as the protagonist, but the actors were clearly promised something good and were stuck in a studio mess. Gary Oldman is the doc who supervises the Robocop programme and struggles to choose between an unethical but profitable government programme and the life of a nearly dead stranger. It’s a complex role yet the film makes him a super-serious character in a mostly goofy film. The same goes for Abbie Cornish, who exercises all her dramatic chops as Alex Murphy’s wife, Jackie Haley as an antagonistic army guy, and Michael Keaton as the scummy boss of Omnicorp. Only Sam Jackson has some fun in the role of a television anchor, who can’t understand why the government doesn’t make robots mainstream.
To be fair, the film had no chance to begin with, considering we’ve already seen Iron Man and Dredd. Whenever Robocop goes into new territory, it keeps harking back to the premise of the 1987 original. That way, the film makes you respect Paul Verhoeven’s film more because it saw the future of Hollywood.