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18th February 2014

Review: Robocop

According to Tom Bruce, the 1987 ‘Robocop’ was in no need of a re-boot

Paul Verhoeven, director of the 1987 RoboCop, is on record as calling this 21st century remake ‘completely idiotic’, and he’s not wrong either. RoboCop  is a corporate bastardisation of everything that the satire-centric original stood for, with little in the way of action or acting.

Beginning with a news broadcast lampooning America’s ‘policing’ of the Middle-East, propaganda hype-man Pat Novak (Samuel L Jakcson) asserts that ‘corruption-free’ robots are the best line of defence against criminality, and demands that the senate replace human police officers with giant drones. Back in the US of A,  Officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is cruising the sterile streets of a hi –tech Detroit and trying to bring down mob man Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow), presumably because he has guns and sells pirated DVDs. Long story short, Murphy gets blown to literal pieces and pro-robot-rights Omnicorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) decides to turn him into a 2.6 billion dollar android enforcer.

RoboCop takes far too long to become just that, and there are far too many stages to his development; at first he’s just Alex Murphy except with a metal body and a cool bike, but his past traumas affect his efficiency, so Omnicorp ‘switch off his emotion’, turning him into an impassionate killing machine. Eventually, Murphy is able to override his bot-brain by quantifying people’s expressions (i.e Fear: 70 per cent, Sadness: 65 per cent) to become some kind of po-faced humanitarian. Each incarnation is more inexplicable then the next, and throughout you are forced to endure face-palm inducing references to the original RoboCop, so wildly out of context it makes you wonder if director José Padilha even likes the film.

In two hours there are only four action scenes, three of which take place in identical warehouses and unfold like the opening missions of a game of Time Crisis, only difference being that when it’s game over you won’t want to put another pound in. 1987 RoboCop was gruesomely, hilariously, over the top with its use of violence, but even Dallas Buyers Club has more blood than this 2014 model – 12a, really? In order to justify RoboCop’s existence, the Detroit setting should have at least felt dangerous. As it is, the steely dystopia on screen isn’t even as bad the real-life Detroit today.

Rusty is the best way to describe most of the performances in RoboCop.  Samuel L. as Commie-hating news man Pat Novak is no substitute for the uproarious parody scenes interspersed throughout the 1987 classic, while Gary Oldman’s morally compromised Dr Norton is an incoherent mess and Michael Keaton just looks beaten. Joel Kinnaman’s portrayal of the corrugated copper lacks conviction, and Abbie Cornish (aka Mrs RoboCop) is side-lined into obscurity.

RoboCop  is a tin man of a movie, lacking not just a heart but a brain as well. Joyless to its cybernetic core, the end credits misery is compounded by the shameful use of  ‘I Fought the Law’, essentially yelling ‘You didn’t just watch crap!’. But it is crap. It very much is.

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