Movie Review: RoboCop

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After an attempt on his life, a cop in the near future is given a robo-makeover by a company called Omnicorp and is put back on the streets as the first ever part-human, part-robot police officer.

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Jose Padilha, 2014

Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) was an all-around Good Guy, Family Man and Honest Cop before someone tried to kill him. He had chased down a lead on a drug baron who was getting protection and guns from dirty cops, which lead to his partner Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams) getting injured in a shoot-out and Murphy being very nearly killed. Business mogul and robot maker Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) sees his chance to finally start selling his drones in America by putting a “man inside the machine”, saving Murphy’s life by building him a new robot body with the help of experimental doctor Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman). Norton convinces Murphy to go back to his old job as the first ever “robocop”, gradually resorting to more and more manipulation in order to meet Sellars’ increasing demands. The crime rate plummets, but at what cost to Alex Murphy?

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If you haven’t seen the original 1987 Robocop film by Paul Verhoeven I strongly suggest you give it a try. Verhoeven made a much more biting, fun and interesting movie than this remake manages, full of violence, satire and awesome stop-motion robots. Having said that, I enjoyed the remake a lot more than I thought I would. It’s a much slicker, more sanitised version of the story than the original, which cuts down on its impact and power dramatically, but there are a couple of decent action scenes and at least one moment that made me think “that’s badass!”. Without comparing to the original, it’s an enjoyable enough action film, with some interesting ideas about what makes us human. The script is frequently heavy-handed, but there weren’t any moments that I really didn’t like; it moved at a reasonable clip, with some really confronting concepts. There’s a scene in the Middle East at the beginning that’s particularly interesting, but sadly the ideas presented there are never capitalised upon.

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Michael K Williams tweeted this picture of himself and Gary Oldman goofing around on set.

I didn’t realise this when I saw the movie, but I am now really disturbed and annoyed that they changed Murphy’s partner from a woman to a man. Making him a black man doesn’t actually make it better. It’s a shame, because there are a lot of things about this movie that are really clever; shifting the focus from Murphy to the machinations of Omnicorp, particularly in scenes between Keaton and Oldman, is a particularly smart move. The two veterans completely own this movie, far overshadowing their younger counterparts, though Jennifer Ehle puts in a good performance as a colleague. Samuel L. Jackson as a heavy-handed shock jock was a lot of fun, even though he had to deliver the brunt of the exposition – watch him cut off and dismiss a senator, for instance. Abbie Cornish, an actress I like, was wasted in the “struggling wife and mother” role, and while Kinnaman is fine, he doesn’t stand out. It’s worth seeing as an action movie about corporate corruption, at any rate, especially if you want to see Gary Oldman in a great game of acting tug-o-war with Michael Keaton.

Robocop on IMDb

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