Movies

Review: 'RoboCop'

(Two stars)

Word leaked two years ago that José Padilha, director of the new "RoboCop" remake, was struggling mightily against studio suits to achieve his vision for the film. "It is hell here," the Brazilian director told a filmmaker friend. Now the film has arrived, and it's fairly clear that this "RoboCop" is a product of unhappy compromise.

Wisely, the new "RoboCop" acknowledges how times have changed since Paul Verhoeven's 1987 original. The 2028 setting of Padilha's film has Americans grappling with the use of advanced "drone" technology: Sure, it's OK as deployed in the streets of Tehran, but Detroit? Not so much. The weapons-technology giant OmniCorp -- as per ruthless CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) -- wants to expand into the domestic market, but they're having trouble bribing the necessary politicians to change the law in their favor.

Giving the people what they want, Sellars pursues cyborg technology that will meld ultimate firepower and precision to a consciousness capable of making humane calls about use of force. Intriguingly, much of Joshua Zetumer's screenplay concerns R&D, marketing meetings and product testing of the idea that eventually becomes "RoboCop": a construct built around the remains of wounded-in-action cop Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman of "The Killing").

The subtleties of this satire of corporate insensitivity to American lives (RoboCop's made in China, Murphy gets digi-stamped "Property of OmniCorp") give Padhilha's film a soupçon of military-industrial complexity. But let's face it: A movie called "RoboCop" isn't exactly built for subtlety. That's why Verhoeven's gonzo, cyberpunky original was such a blast: Nearly X-rated for violence, that hard-R actioner rammed its you-know-you-want-it satire right in your face, and was deliriously entertaining for it. This loose remake, with its PG-13 neutering, can only feel like weak tea by comparison, no matter how much more money has been thrown at it.

The filmmakers' most obvious attempt at satirical bite is the inclusion of Samuel L. Jackson as right-wing TV host Pat Novak (of, ahem, "The Novak Element"), but his exposition-heavy scenes drag and fall comedically flat. Still, Padilha shows excellent taste in casting: Kinnaman's a fine choice in the lead, and he emotes gamely even though the plot keeps cutting away from what would be dramatically interesting, and the deep-bench (if underused) supporting cast includes Abbie Cornish, Jennifer Ehle, Jackie Earle Haley, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Michael K. Williams and Jay Baruchel.

Judged on its own merits, this "RoboCop" pump-fakes in some interesting directions without getting to fully explore any of them. Partly, it's a variation on "Frankenstein," with an unhappy post-human monster contending with an ethically suspect "father" (Gary Oldman as RoboCop's maker). Briefly, we get a riff on "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" as RoboCop poignantly asks to be put out of his misery. But mostly, MGM seems to think they've bankrolled a less fun "Iron Man," which means the movie only really feels fully realized when guns are blazing. And we're not exactly in a social climate where guns blazing is, with apologies to Rodgers and Hart, our favorite work of art.

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, sensuality and some drug material. One hour, 48 minutes.

Comments

There are no comments yet. Please share yours below.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

WUE makes out-of-state tuition more affordable
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 2 comments | 2,655 views

Local picks on 2015 Michelin Bib Gourmand list
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 2,542 views

Ode to Brussels Sprout
By Laura Stec | 14 comments | 2,230 views

Charter School Proposal Steeped In Unintended Consequences
By Erin Glanville | 36 comments | 1,481 views

Measure M-- I am not drinking Greenheart’s expensive potion
By Martin Lamarque | 3 comments | 208 views