Joel Kinnaman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Jay Baruchel, Gary Oldman, Douglas Urbanski, Jennifer Ehle, and Michael K. Williams
David Self, James Vanderbilt, Nick Schenk, Joshua Zetumer (based upon 1987 screenplay by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner)
"RoboCop" - Who Needs Soul Anyway?
Destined to be more popular with those who possess a gift for lack of thought, this re-imagined version of a vastly superior 1987 film that didn't need 21st century special effects to place itself among sci-fi's more treasured films of the last 30 years.
RoboCop in 2014 is a more amped up and action-packed film than its predecessor, but it's also a less entertaining, less emotionally involving, and less compelling film than the original film. For those happy with nothing more than a relatively mindless action flick, admittedly with a few softly developed social statements, this RoboCop may prove to be more than enough but for discerning moviegoers who remember the original film and are hoping for the original with 21st century special effects this film is likely to prove to be a disappointment.
Brazilian director Jose Padilha is at the helm here and he's proven with his Elite Squad films that he knows how to pour on the action with audience-pleasing results. Unfortunately, while RoboCop has an abundance of action it also lacks the soul and the spirit of the original film. Set in Detroit, detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is again targeted by the baddies but this time around it's a quicker operation as Padilha trades in a suspenseful and slow-building attack for a "Ka-Boom!" and it's over one. His wife (a talented yet wasted Abbie Cornish) agrees to allow his remains to be used in a special program of sorts that will attempt to introduce robotic cops to a "robo-phobic" American public. It's a baffling decision to have Alex and his wife still going through the motions of marriage once he's brought back to robo-life, but that's more because Kinnaman is far more convincing as a solid screen presence than an actual actor. His scenes with Gary Oldman, as scientist Dr. Dennett Norton, are far more convincing and Oldman himself is in solid form here. Michael Keaton is fine in what amounts to a formulaic role as corporate bigwig Raymond Sellars, a man whose motivations for releasing this robotic presence in America are obviously far from pure.
Samuel L. Jackson has a blast doing what Samuel L. Jackson frequently does on-screen as a bombastic right-winter with a true passion for the Sellars agenda. As you're sitting there watching Jackson, it's hard not to simultaneously think to yourself that this could have been an incredibly good film.
RoboCop isn't a horrible film, but it is an incredibly disappointing one given an abundance of marketing that seems to intentionally emphasize a desire to make a bigger, badder and more meaningful RoboCop. Instead, quite the opposite happens. RoboCop, I'd dare say, lacks the balls of its predecessor and ends up being a far too timid remake than should exist given the vast improvements in technology and special effects over the past 30 years.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic