RoboCop (2014) Directed by Jose Padilla. With Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish and Samuel L. Jackson.
It’s becoming a bit of a trend to water down Paul Verhoeven science fiction films. 2012 saw the tepid re-do of Total Recall. Now, two years on, Hollywood is at it again, diluting RoboCop, Verhoeven’s cult hit about a Detroit policeman critically injured in the line of duty, given a second life, of sorts, as part man, part machine.
If anything, the most notable element that is shaved off this re-telling, is Verhoeven’s signature violence. The 1987 RoboCop was, at times, shockingly violent, but it was also joyfully satirical. Released as a ’12’ certificate, this updating is a more sanitised version of the story (presumably for maximum box-office) taking full advantage of the now limitless CG technology. Where the ’87 film was a more flippant stab at advertising and news, this version takes a swipe at 24hr rolling news – ahem, Fox News – to hint at the often insidious relationship between news outlets, big companies and politicians.
Before you begin, remaking a much-loved film is always going to be an uphill battle. Creatively, I’m at a loss as to why anyone would bother. In the case of RoboCop, it’s perhaps understandable why a studio might think the character could be marketable to a younger audience, but those are motivations that have more to do with financial gain, than creative fulfilment. And well, that’s just it. RoboCop 2014, for all its impressive visuals and technological enhancements, is a very businesslike experience.
On the plus side, the film has some rewarding screen presence in Gary Oldman, who brings a welcome air of humanity to proceedings, while Michael Keaton is well cast in a villainous role. Joel Kinnaman is ok, in the central role of Alex Murphy, a part that admittedly, doesn’t give him a great deal to do, aside from looking stern faced and occasionally showing emotion toward his estranged wife (Abbie Cornish) and son.
Make no mistake, this incarnation of RoboCop is by no means a stinker. For the uninitiated, it will play as an energetic slice of hokum, in all likelihood, forgotten a few days after consumption. For those fond and familiar with the Verhoeven version, this will feel like a film made by accountants, ticking every box for maximum return. 3/5