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szdaily -> Movies -> 
RoboCop
    2014-02-28  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams Director: José Padilha

    THE re-booted and re-suited “RoboCop” delivers enough family-friendly fantasy adventure to keep action fans happy, but while certainly watchable and extremely well made, it quite simply lacks the visceral jolt of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 original which relished a sense of satire amidst its heady violence. Certainly the more sophisticated special effects that drive this new version add plenty to the already smart concept and a strong cast take it all extremely seriously, but despite a few classy effects-driven moments it spirals to a rather flat and forgettable ending.

    Of course it is often unfair to judge a remake against an original film, and in many cases the new upgraded version will be aimed at an audience that might not even know there was a film with the same title more than 30 years earlier, but the novelty value of what made the original a success (and therefore ripe for remake) needs to be kept intact. With “RoboCop” the new version is efficient, smartly scripted, nicely performed (and offers some astute analogies to the current use of drone warfare) but frankly lacks a much-needed edge.

    The film, set in 2028, opens with — and is punctuated by — Samuel L. Jackson’s slyly funny (and almost film-stealing) turn as gung-ho television talkshow host Patrick Novak, whose main role seems to be to praise the worth of OmniCorp, a multinational which wants to bring in robot drones to the streets of the United States. All that is in the way seems to be a liberal politician who has convinced fellow politicians that robot policing is not a smart way to go.

    But when honest cop Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman from “The Killing”) is badly injured in an attempt on his life, OmniCorp topper Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton) spots a way into the market, and coerces his top R&D scientist Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) to concoct a part-man, part-robot policeman, offering the morals and conscience of a human combined with the hydraulics, armor and built-in gunpower of a robot.

    OmniCorp envisions a RoboCop that will get the policing job done no matter what the cost, but no matter how great the technology Murphy’s humanity still holds things back when it comes to getting the job done faster and more efficiently. So Sellers orders that his brain be tampered with so he feels no emotion — even when seeing his loving wife (Abbie Cornish) and young son — and becomes pure machine. But they didn’t count on the strength of his humanity … and the man starts to fight back from inside the machine.

    The interesting spin on this new “RoboCop” is that the OmniCorp are simply about selling and marketing their product rather than trying to solve crime issue or run a city … it is simply about the dollars. Murphy becomes their star product, so when things start to unravel they need to try and shut him down as speedily as possible.

    Director José Padilha (who made Brazilian hits “Elite Squad” and “Elite Squad 2”) is a shrewd choice as director, and brings a sense of energy and verve to the film. Equally there is little to quibble about in terms of the casting. Oldman is suitably nervy and moral as the scientist worried about his actions; Keaton is all steely charm as the OmniCorp boss; Jackie Earle Haley has fun as the OmniCorp enforcer who dismisses RoboCop as a “Tin Man;” Marianne Jean-Baptiste is impressive as the Detroit Police Chief and Jennifer Ehle and Jay Baruchel are smooth as Seller’s lackeys. The film, though, does lack a strong female lead — Abbie Cornish’s character is simply the warm and loving wife torn apart by her husband’s accident, which is rather a waste of such a good actress. At least in the original film Nancy Allen offered up a feisty and tough cop as Murphy’s police partner.

    Kinnaman has the looks and physique to play the action lead, though to a degree once inside the RoboCop outfit and with his visor down he can do little but replicate Peter Weller’s robotic moves from the original film. What Weller also brought to the original film was the pursed lip look so beloved of Christian Bale’s “Batman,” that enabled him to give “RoboCop” a sense of character even when he seems to be all machine. Kinnaman is better when the visor is up and you can see his warm-hearted eyes.

    The slick effects are often very impressive, cleverly blending a sense of the ordinary with futuristic technology. Most striking are the scenes in Dr. Norton’s lab when it is finally revealed how much of the human Murphy is actually inside the RoboCop armor. These scenes give Kinnaman a chance to play the man rather than the robot, and he make the most of these moments.

    Though slick and occasionally exciting, “RoboCop” rather fizzles out as it heads towards a climax that is set up to be grandstanding but ends up a rather familiar and less than imaginative stand-off on top of a building. Somehow you expected more from such a big-budget remake. But then that is the underlying feeling about this new “RoboCop” altogether — it looks great and is fun at times, but somehow you expect and hoped for so much more from such a strong and established concept.

    The movie is now being screened in Shenzhen. (SD-Agencies)

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