Film review: Robocop

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Joseph Austin reviews the remake of 1980s cult classic Robocop.

Today, money-grabbing reboots and needless remakes dominate cinema billboards, often at the expense of original features.

Each must retain a sense of the original work, while also justifying their own existence.

Deemed “unnecessary” and “disgraceful” by many of the original’s die-hard fans, José Padilha’s re-imagined Robocop is a surprisingly welcome update to Paul Verhoeven’s excellent 1980s classic, as well as being an entertaining and slick entrant into the sci-fi/action genre.

The year is 2028 and mega corporation OmniCorp (OCP in the original) is at the forefront of robotic technology.

Replacing humans in the military, OmniCorp’s robots have patrolled foreign countries for years, yet never in the US due to government legislation.

With billions of dollars to be made, OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) gives the go-ahead to create a part-man, part-machine police officer, preventing crime and keeping America’s streets safe.

Detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) becomes the ideal candidate for Sellars’ creation when corrupt cops expose Murphy’s investigation into a Detroit crime boss, leaving him critically injured.

Months later, with the majority of his body now robotic, Murphy wakes as OmniCorp’s latest product: Robocop.

What made Verhoeven’s breakthrough original so great, aside from being an enthralling high-tech crime actioner, was its farcical ultra-violence and twisted satire.

Holding back on the violence, Padilha’s Robocop attempts to exude all the irony of the original, and does so here and there.

‘The Novak Element’, a surrealistic political TV show hosted by the overzealous and opinionated Pat Novak (Samuel L Jackson), immediately harks back to the original’s dystopian ‘Media Break’ news bulletins.

Also similar to the original are some blatant swipes at American imperialism and critiques of multi-national companies.

One OmniCorp employee denies all wrongdoing, amusingly stating that he’s “only in marketing”.

But what makes this version of Robocop so fresh (apart from Robo now looking more like a futuristic Batman) is its more thought-provoking approach than the original.

Delving deeper into the issues of man v machine, Padilha’s film can certainly be looked at from an existential point of view.

Joel Kinnaman is more than convincing as a ‘rough around the edges’ Murphy, and surprisingly deep after becoming Robocop.

Yet it is Gary Oldman’s performance as Dr Dennett Norton that is the most resolute, reminding us of his ability to play any kind of character.

Here, Oldman’s trustworthy Norton displays the ethical concerns that would arise from such events and acts as the film’s moral compass.

In short, if you are hoping to see yet more dim-witted lawyers being blown away by a shower of bullets from ED-209’s uber machine guns, in front of a room full of suits, producing more blood and guts than a B-Horror movie, then perhaps Padihla’s Robocop isn’t for you.

Anybody hoping for a fresh approach to a 1980s action icon, with some subtle twists and nostalgic references, give it a try.

“I’d buy that for a dollar”.