Magazine article Screen International


Magazine article Screen International


Article excerpt

Dir: José Padilha. US. 2014. 118mins

The re-booted and re-suited RoboCop delivers enough family-friendly fantasy adventure to keep action fans happy - especially since they are largely starved of such product during awards season - 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 ultra-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.

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.

Of course it is often unfair to judge a re-make 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 quite simply lacks a much-needed edge.

The film opened at the end of January in some far Eastern territories and in the UK, Australia, France and other European countries prior to to its February 12 release in the US through Columbia Pictures. Strong anticipation and a savvy marketing campaign should see it open well, but whether it has the legs to dominate the box-office seems unlikely, but it should still be a strong action performer.

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 talk-show host Patrick Novak, whose main role seems to be to praise the worth of OmniCorp, a multinational which wants to bring in robot drones - which police the streets of Iran to bloody effect - to the streets of the US. All that is in the way seems to be a liberal politician (he wears a bow-tie, therefore must be a lily-livered liberal) 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, armour 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 Alex'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. …

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