Director: Jose Padilha
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel and Samuel L. Jackson
Plot: Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) is hit with a car bomb, unwittingly turning him into the perfect tool for Omnicorp’s latest marketing campaign.
As predicted, Robocop wasn’t the most impressive movie out there, but its failures weren’t for the reasons I expected.
The first half of this film is actually quite promising. The story of Robocop is slowed right down to a crawl, so we get the full effect of the story. My main worry for this remake was that all of the clever political statements of the first one would be lost on a modern audience. However, the writers adapt this story, so it works for today’s world. The first few moments don’t even introduce us to the Robocop, but show us the political climate through Laurence Fis… Samuel L. Jackson’s talk show, so we get an overall idea of the stakes for the movie. When we finally do meet Alex Murphy, the movie takes its time to introduce his work life and family life, and we are already knee-deep into the movie by the time, we get to the explosion that makes him an ideal candidate for the robotic suit. In fact, this movie could have easily have had Gary Oldman (once again stealing the show from the least expected place), as the lead character, coming to terms with what he is creating. I liked how I actually got of all that Dr. Frankenstein character development I missed out on in I, Frankenstein. Sadly, while the slow style works here, it never actually picks up the pace in the second half. What we really wanted is for Robocop to wake up, have that movie staple of the training montage and then get thrown into an all-out war on the streets with Vallon. That never really happens and the movie seems unsure of what to do with itself.
I think Robocop’s biggest problem is that Joel Kinnamon isn’t that effective as Alex Murphy. As soon as he appeared on the screen, I realise that he had forgotten to bring any charisma to the set. The actor had become so hooked on playing the robot character, than the human side to him never felt real. Abbie Cornish tries to coax a performance out of him, but with Kinnamon going through the motions, the quieter family life scenes feel more like they are a routine subplot, rather than the glue of the films. In my head, they should have been the best scenes of the movie. I wanted Alex Murphy to feel like a real person, so when the robot side began taking over, we began to notice it. He should have played Alex Murphy like the kind of loveable hero you would expect from a rom-com, making him impossible not to hate. Hell, throw some comedy into the character. Anything to make us actually care a little bit more, when Gary Oldman begins taking away his free will. As it stands, Robocop ends up only going halfway with both the action and the performances.
At the very least, Robocop is interesting, if not good. The social message is clear here and actually rather enjoyable. The corruption of celebrity, the hypocrisy of America; it was all here. One of my favourite moments was where Samuel L. Jackson’s Pat Novak turned off the feed where Senator Dreyfus is making his point on air. It was eerily similar to how everyone is able to just switch off Robocop, suggesting that maybe none of us have this free will. While Keaton and Ehle aren’t ready for the villain role that the movie eventually sticks them with, it is fun watching the cold, calculating menace of the heads of Omnicorps. Ehle sniggers at the concept of Robocop having a soul, and Keaton treats everyone as a puppet, getting them all to act out his devastating schemes. The final scene also shows us the media turning into a spoilt child throwing a tantrum (Samuel L. Jackson gets permission to go full Samuel L. Jackson). All of these little details hint that there is a good draft of this reboot somewhere, but because the core of the movie doesn’t work, this reboot kind of crumbles around itself.
Final Verdict: Admittedly, it comes closer to a good movie than we expected, but a slow pace and weak action still makes me struggle to recommend this movie to anyone.