1987’s “RoboCop” re-defined the sci-fi/action genre, with Peter Weller starring as the Detroit detective who became a half man/half machine anti-crime hero. Two sequels followed in the 90s, and now director Jose Padilha (“Elite Squad”) brings this story back to life with a slightly updated remake. The problem is, since practically every man-machine concept movie has been done by Hollywood over the last 27 years, “RoboCop” doesn’t feel unique or original, but rather a bunch of worn-out parts pieced together with disappointing results.
The first character we’re introduced to is political talk show host Pat Novak (played by Samuel L. Jackson). He informs us of the two-sided battle taking place in 2028 America. The head of a corporation called Omnicorp, Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton) is looking to bring his giant, crime-fighting drones, that are protecting citizens all over the world, to the U.S. But political leaders in Washington think it’s simply too dangerous having machines take the place of actual police officers and soldiers. And the majority of the American people agree.
Sellers needs to make his drones “more human”. He hires scientist Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) to get it done. But they need the right candidate. And they get one in Detroit police officer Alex Murphy (“The Killing”‘s Joel Kinnaman). He nearly dies in an explosion while tracking a weapons dealer, but he is saved (at least parts of him) and turned into RoboCop. And while the experiment is successful in the beginning, as you might expect, things start to go downhill in a hurry.
Some of the ideas behind “RoboCop” are interesting, but the movie itself is very average. The set-up works, but the script runs out of juice once the RoboCop himself comes to life. Jackson’s Novak is by far the most interesting character, providing some realism to the sci-fi storyline. However he and the rest of the supporting cast are overused, making the film not about the part human/part machine Officer Murphy, but everyone around him. There are way too many talky, boardroom scenes that go on far too long. And there are legal, medical and social issues raised that aren’t explored deeply enough.
“RoboCop” is quite violent and goes against the current trend of crime/action films in that there’s absolutely no humor. And that’s fine, except the action scenes are rather bland, so the overall entertainment value is pretty low.
Kinnaman doesn’t get many opportunities to act outside of a scene when he meets his wife and son for the first time after becoming RoboCop. Oldman is solid in a very straight-forward role, while Keaton overplays it as the power-hungry corporate chief.
“RoboCop” is rated PG-13 for some intense action/violence, a few disturbing images, and language. It’s appropriate for teens and up. This film proves that not every 80s hit needs or deserves a remake, though I know that’s something Hollywood producers and writers don’t believe.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “RoboCop” gets a C.