RoboCop (12A)



Action (2014)
118mins US

Starring: Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel, Michael Keaton, Samuel L Jackson, Joel Kinnaman, Abbie Cornish, Gary Oldman
Director: Jose Padilha
Writer(s): Joshua Zetumer
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Badly injured Detroit police officer Alex Murphy is transformed into a crime-fighting cyborg by the scientists at the conglomerate OmniCorp to showcase their controversial technology. The company hopes to introduce a RoboCop to every city in 21st century America but the nefarious plans of CEO Raymond Sellars and his board are jeopardised by the humanity that burns bright beneath Murphy's metallic armour.

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LondonNet Film Review
Robocop (12A)

Jose Padilha's glossy remake of Paul Verhoeven's 1987 sci-fi blockbuster looks and sounds like RoboCop. The setting is still a dystopian, futuristic Detroit, home to conglomerate OmniCorp, which plans to revolutionise global law enforcement with its robot technology including hulking ED-209 drones. The central character remains a murdered cop called Alex Murphy and elements of Basil Poledouris's original score including the theme tune have been incorporated by composer Pedro Bromfman. So far, so familiar. Padilha and screenwriter Joshua Zetumer embellish this framework with timely references to the War On Terror plus slick digital effects...

Joel Kinnaman in MGM/Columbia Pictures' ROBOCOP. Copyright 2014 StudioCanal. All Rights Reserved.Back in the 1980s, lead actor Peter Weller lost three pounds in sweat each day encased in a heavy, cumbersome suit. He was a convincing hybrid of man and machine. Statuesque Swedish-American hunk Joel Kinnaman, who headlines the revamp, also wears a suit but he is frequently lost amidst the pyrotechnics of computer-generated battle sequences that unfold like videogames. Crucially, filmmakers have jettisoned the biting satire. Verhoeven's film was punctuated with TV commercials, which pointed both barrels at the rampant consumerism of 1980s America, and pulled the trigger. Here, excerpts from a TV show fronted by Pat Novak (Samuel L Jackson) bookmark the narrative but fail to draw blood.

Why are we so robo-phobic?!" bellows Novak, lambasting the law which prevents mechanised soldiers from patrolling the streets of 2028 America. Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), scheming CEO of OmniCorp, realises that he needs to pluck consumers' heartstrings to sway political opinion. "We've got to give Americans a product they can love," Sellars tells his head of legal affairs, Liz Kline (Jennifer Ehle), and head of marketing, Tom Pope (Jay Baruchel). The golden goose is incorruptible cop Alex Murphy (Kinnaman), who is critically injured and can be rebuilt with OmniCorp technology pioneered by Dr Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman). Alex's wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) signs the medical release form and her husband is reborn as the eponymous saviour.

RoboCop struggles to hardwire us into the humanity beneath Murphy's metallic shell. Technological advances take us further away from the characters' emotions, even with a solid performance from Kinnaman. He gels nicely with Cornish and Jean Paul Ruttan who plays Murphy's young son, in early scenes. Disappointingly, that relationship falls by the wayside in the second half as Dr Bennett bends to Sellars's Machiavellian might. "Alex believes he's in control but he's not - it's the illusion of free will," he informs the conniving CEO. Verhoeven's relentless blood-soaked vision earned an 18 certificate from UK censors. By comparison, Padilha's re-imaging is 12A - the same as The Dark Knight Rises - and wanton carnage has been dialled down accordingly. Sellars and his marketing team, who are mindful of merchandising opportunities, would concur: mechanised killing machines have to be family-friendly nowadays.

- Kim Hu

Joel Kinnaman in MGM/Columbia Pictures' ROBOCOP. Copyright 2014 StudioCanal. All Rights Reserved.


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