Film Review: RoboCop

robocop_2014_poster

Plot: In a future where robot drones have helped rid crime throughout the world, America is still unwilling to accept them as police enforcers. When Detroit detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is nearly killed, OmniCorp makes him half machine in order to sell robots to the American public. But when Murphy’s human side takes over, he begins to unlock corruption all throughout the city.

Let’s just get this part over with – no, it’s not as good as the original. Having said that, as far as remakes go, this is a damn good entry. I thoroughly enjoyed director Jose Padilha’s take on the 1987 classic. It’s sleek. It’s got solid action. There’s some new wrinkles to it. Good acting. I really don’t have a whole lot to complain about, so let’s just get right into it.

While the script is decent, this is what happens when you get elite acting talent to be in your movie – they elevate the material. While I wouldn’t call Joel Kinnaman an elite actor right now, he fills the role of RoboCop perfectly. Before he gets in the suit, I wasn’t crazy about his performance as Alex Murphy. He’s fine, perfectly likable and easy to root for, but nothing special. But once he gets in the suit, Kinnaman gives a pretty stellar performance. It’s ironic he was actually more emotional once he became machine. But the moment he sees what he’s become is pretty tragic and powerful. I don’t know if Kinnaman will go on to have a big career, but this particular role was well suited for him (no pun intended).

What really gives the film its mojo though are the supporting cast. Michael Keaton, welcome back! Seriously, why the hell is this guy not doing more movies? He’s great as Raymond Sellars, President of OmniCorp – charismatic, conniving, and you really aren’t sure what to make of him. He’s shady, but pretty likable, and Keaton was just a pleasure to watch. Gary Oldman is Gary Oldman. What else is there to say? He plays the doctor who invents the RoboCop technology, as him and Murphy develop a good relationship throughout the film. Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel…all nice additions, and all had something to do.

Abbie Cornish is also great as Murphy’s wife, Clara. She doesn’t say a whole lot, but definitely conveys a lot of pain in her face as she wonders if her husband is still the same man in this suit. The family element of Murphy wanting to be back with his wife and son is played up a lot. It’s effective in the first half, but does lose steam as the film goes on. The actor who really surprised me though was actually Samuel L. Jackson.

Let me be very clear – Samuel L. Jackson is awesome. A great actor. But the last few years, he’s become almost a parody of himself. When he’s not playing Nick Fury (who I could care less about), he’s typical Samuel L. Jackson. I know a lot of people liked him in Django Unchained, but to me he just came off as a cartoon character. And yes, I realize that’s going to happen in Quentin Tarantino’s world sometimes, but with Jackson’s character, it was just too much. In this film though, I actually just liked him as an actor for a change. Yes, it’s still very Samuel L. Jackson, but it actually made sense for the character. Jackson plays Pat Novak, a political talk show host who almost serves as the narrator. The political debate of Robots vs. No Robots is essential to the film, and Novak is the one really driving that theme. This was a nice added layer to the film. What did piss me off though is the film randomly decides, “Hey, let’s go into Samuel L. Jackson mode for the last scene,” and for no reason! This was infuriating, and does leave a bad taste in your mouth when the film ends. Is there something in Samuel L. Jackson’s contract where he has to say a certain pair of words in every movie…give me a break.

The biggest criticism I have though is the lack of a villain. I guess technically there’s Patrick Garrow as Antoine Vallon, the criminal Murphy is after, but he’s barely there. And honestly, I think I blinked and missed his last scene. He’s such a non-factor. The true villains are revealed towards the end of the film, but there needed to be more of a consistent antagonist present throughout, and there just wasn’t.

Aside from the characters, while there isn’t a ton of action, director Jose Padilha hits it out of the park. It doesn’t get too crazy, it’s well filmed, and looks pristine and gritty all at the same time. I very much enjoyed RoboCop’s suit as well. It just looked cool. You get to see both a grey and black version, and both were stellar.

While the pacing was slow at first, once Murphy has his accident, the film picks up big time. Although, I have to admit, Murphy’s “death scene” is pretty pathetic. But other than that, there are some pretty stand-out moments. RoboCop’s introduction at the press conference is awesome.

If you’ve never been exposed to RoboCop, I would still watch the 1987 version first. If you’ve seen the original, I actually would recommend this version too. You’ll get something new out of it, and that’s incredibly rare for a remake. I liked a lot of the music choices as well, and they even bring back parts of the original score which was pretty cool. What I really admire about this film though is that it takes itself seriously, AND THAT’S A GOOD THING. If you’re looking for one-liners and nothing but fun, you’ll be disappointed. In a big Hollywood action film, you may have to watch some scenes with emotion, and think just a little bit…heaven forbid.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Very Good)

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Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

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