While not nearly as worthless a remake as the 2012 take on Total Recall, the updated approach to Robocop is nonetheless just as uninspired turning the revenge-seeking super cop into a miscast comic book superhero.
The film starts off promising with Pat Novak (Marvel’s The Avengers Samuel L. Jackson clearly having a blast), a FOX news anchor-inspired talk show host droning on about a bill preventing robot automatons and tank-like drones from being used on American soil despite their peace-keeping success overseas.
Director Jose Padilha displays their calculated efficiency in an impressive opening action scene as the drones take out a terrorist sect while Novak watches on approvingly. Too bad the rest of the film doesn’t have that same spark.
Alex Murphy (a wooden Joel Kinnaman, Safe House) is a good cop struggling to make a difference in a corrupt Detroit police department. He and his partner, Jack (Michael K. Williams, Snitch), get on the wrong side of some criminals leaving Murphy barely alive.
Murphy’s tragedy couldn’t have come at a better time for corporate magnate Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton, Batman), who thinks putting a man inside his machines will be the push needed to get Congress’ approval and a billion dollar windfall for his company OmniCorp.
Company doctor Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight Rises) reluctantly agrees to transform Murphy into an armor-plated super cop, but neither anticipates that Murphy’s emotional connection to his wife, Clara (Abbie Cornish) and son, David (John Paul Ruttan) can override any programming. Oldman and Keaton handle their roles fine, but Jackson is the lone cast member you’ll be talking about as you leave the theater.
To Padilha’s credit, there’s nothing offensive to the film and the decent, if unspectacular action scenes, don’t ruin the good name of the Robocop franchise — Robocop 2 and Robocop 3 already accomplished that.
Still, Padilha doesn’t make a convincing case of why this remake was necessary either save some better special effects and tech upgrades. The competent action scenes are staged well, but lack suspense and the PG-13 rating means the violence isn’t nearly as graphic and in your face as the original.
Instead, his script more closely resembles the now standard comic book movie origin.
Zetumer establishes Murphy’s character, has him face a life-altering situation that he reluctantly accepts as his destiny, comes to grips with how his new powers will impact his loved ones all before his big clash with the villain and a slew of sequels. It all plays out too calculated and has none of that updated take on revenge films like Death Wish.
New model Robocop is more concerned with watching Red Wings games than tracking down his killers and the efforts to humanize the character detract from the action. It doesn’t help that the 2014 edition lacks any of the sleazy, despicable villains the original had to spare.
As far as needless remakes go, Robocop is decent, but other than watching an ED-209 that doesn’t walk around like a duck, there’s no reason why you should watch this over the far more entertaining original.