RoboCop (2014)

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RoboCop (2014)Starring Joel Kinnaman, Abbie Cornish, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton

Directed by Jose Padilha

It’s been 27 years since Paul Verhoeven’s version of RoboCop, starring Peter Weller in the title role, was released. If you’re of a certain age, let that sink in for a moment.

27 years?! DAMN!

OK, back to the present.

Although I saw the original RoboCop back in the day, and while I do still love it (I re-watched it after seeing this remake), I reluctantly realize it’s unfair to compare.

So… how does the new movie fire on its own cylinders?

The year is 2028 and a multinational conglomerate called OmniCorp is at the forefront of robot-powered technology. Keaton plays megalomaniac CEO Raymond Sellars who, along with techno-surgeon Dr. Dennett Norton (Oldman) turns fatally-wounded policeman Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) into a “robo-cop”. While he’s 90% computer-based circuits and code, what they don’t count on is his undying humanity.

A loving husband, father, and genuinely good cop doing his best to stem the tide of crime and corruption in Detroit, Alex seems to be the only one struggling with the moral implications of the life-saving surgery. His wife (Abbie Cornish), young son, and partner (Michael K. Williams) are just happy to have him back. To Sellars, Norton, and fight-trainer Mattox (Jackie Earle Haley), Alex is an invaluable commodity. To TV pundit Pat Novak (Jackson), he’s an oddity… and maybe a threat to society.

As Alex struggles with his unique situation, he homes in on finding out who “killed” him. That goal and the love of his family are the only things keeping him going. When he’s not on the job, he’s in the lab, plugged in and tuned out.

While the psychological, moral, and sociopolitical implications of these future possibilities are indeed interesting, RoboCop is first and foremost a neutered PG-13 sci-fi thriller. It wants to be sardonic, as well as serious. It wants to be heartfelt, as well as action-packed. While trying to cover all the bases and to be everything to everyone, RoboCop fails to fully connect.

At least, it looks like a million bucks (or $100,000,000 as the case may be). The special effects are tremendously good, and the new RoboSuit rocks. The casting is terrific – gotta love Oldman, and the raucously over-the-top trio of Keaton, Haley, and Jackson. Kinnaman, best-known for his gripping role in the TV series “The Killing” and the American regurgitation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, is great: He conveys utterly human despair at the sight of his devastated body as expertly as he displays the uber-focus of a robotic law enforcement device.

The overall experience is vaguely unsatisfying, but the movie is not altogether bad. RoboCop is worth a look on the big screen for the visual spectacle, but for the visceral satire you’re better off revisiting the original.

2 1/2 out of 5

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Staci Layne Wilson