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| 13 February 2014 | Reply

Directed by José Padilha
Starring Joel Kinnaman, Samuel L Jackson, Michael Keating, Gary Oldman
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Robocop movie poster

Robotic law enforcement is an intriguing concept which has been explored on film many times, not least in 1987’s original Robocop starring Peter Weller as the guy who, almost dead, is turned into a half-machine-cop.

A cult favourite, that movie tripped merrily along the wire – a touch of sci fi, a hefty dose of shoot ‘em up – blow ‘em up – fuck ‘em up action, and a nice sideline in exploitative thrills.

This remake casts Joel Kinnaman in the title role, with the setup playing out like a modernised, sanitised version of the original. Once Robocop is in da house, though, things start to hot up… a little.

CGI provides infinitely improved vision of Kinnaman’s Alex Murphy as Robocop disassembled – in this movie, just a head, heart, lungs and – for no good reason at all – one hand (Just before they operate on him, the computer screen showed a man with burns and one amputated leg, so who knows why they had to slice and dice so frantically – and even if they did, why keep one human hand when they didn’t even wanna salvage a shoulderblade or a knee… No doubt to provide a little more humanity to the character but it makes no sense in the context of the movie, they arguably should have kept the full arm if they felt so strongly about it!)

More sci fi but with less soul than the original, the man versus machine/heart & soul versus logical computer chip, debate is handled pretty well despite most of the supporting cast – even Michael Keating’s ruthless tech company boss and Gary Oldman’s ethically fence-sitting doctor, remaining largely one dimensional greedy businessmen, sidekick cops, adoring wives, easily compromised support staff, and so on throughout. Kinnaman himself is similarly not going to win an Oscar for his performance, sufficient though it is.

Samuel L Jackson however, looking scarily normal in suit and wig, provides light relief as the completely biased host of opinion program The Novak Report. Jackson plays it deliciously over the top and gets plenty of laughs as he spins situations wildly, accusing good men of being ‘robophobic’ or concluding ‘men just weren’t up to the task.’ There’s also a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Weller, which was a nice nod to the past.

The message of Robocop is simple – the tech may have enormous potential, but it will always need controllers, and in the wrong hands, it will be deadly and a complete anathema to our way of life.


Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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