Classic IMDB Plot:
In 2028 Detroit, when Alex Murphy – a loving husband, father and good cop – is critically injured in the line of duty, the multinational conglomerate OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer.
Classic warning about warnings: There may be.
No remake is without (deserved) controversy. Robocop, a remake of the 1987 classic is not immune to this, specially since the original is, in my humble opinion, one of the best science fiction movies around (and it ages gracefully too).
But there is one thing the original Robocop didn’t fully explore: If a cop dies and it’s turned into a cyborg, what happens to this family? How does the company threat him, as a person or as product?
There is one sequence in the original movie, about 15 minutes long, in which you can see things going around Robocop, but not Robocop himself: his first full activation, the walk around a couple of people — investors and scientist — his entrance in the police till, finally, you can see his full appearance — you can partly see it in a monitor after his full activation — at his recharge “chair”. All this just follow people seeing Robocop and their reactions, not Robocop himself, which is an amazing idea by Verhoeven.
But back to the point: Early in the movie — at least, after the point Murphy becomes Robocop — that things around seem to go around: His family is still there (a point missing in the first movie); the company is closely following him, pretty much as a product and not as a special clean up crew; his doctor is there, following him in every turn; and the company robot “puppeteer” is there too. And the interesting point is that each one see Robocop as a different thing: To his family, he’s still a man; to the company, a product; to the doctor, his most complex work, which may help others in the future; for the puppeteer, it’s just another robot.
All this could make an incredible history a la Deus Ex: Human Revolution but it seemed someone thought “In the original movie, the guy shoots a bandit in the balls! We need more violence! We need more action!” and then everything went down the drain.
In the end, Robocop seems to be pushed into two different directions at the same time, only to fall short in both: It’s action scenes are not impressive and the thoughtful part is not that smart.
Acting is alright, but not impressive, although I have to give props to Michael Keaton and Jackie Earle Haley. Michael Keaton plays the Omnicorp CEO, the guy behind the “product” Robocop. He really does a good job in being a dissimulate CEO, always thinking about the company and, well, acting on it (the usual Keaton weird acting really pays off here). Haley plays the puppeteer and he’s completely unemotional towards Robocop, as he’s towards his other robots; to him, Robocop is nothing but a robot that misbehaves.
Thing is, both are really competent and in character all the times.
The others, not so much, except for Samuel L. Jackson, which was given the job of a O’Reilly-like character, although not so good in hiding his agenda — actually, his agenda is shown in plain sight, which feels dumb as a bag of bricks. It seems they tried to throw the silliness of the TV shows in the original movie with a “Starship Troopers” propaganda in a single package, but it just reeks absurdity in so high level it simply drags the movie down.
Joel Kinnaman as Murphy/Robocop does a somewhat nice job in the later but not in the first. Surely, he didn’t have to go extremes like Peter Weller mostly ’cause we can see that robots today can do human-like movements instead of the factory-robot like we thought in 1987, but he manages to go full “I’m now more robot than man, so I have no facial expression” and “oh god, I lost my body, let me die”. But, again, when he’s full human, he’s not likable or anything like that.
Gary Oldman plays the doctor that turns Murphy into Robocop and you never know what he’s really thinking: Is he worried about the person inside the machine, is he worried about his job or is he thinking about the medical advances he’s making? He keeps going into those three non-stop, by in one scene seemingly protesting against some medical procedure and, just after that, almost killing all humanity in Murphy for the sake of his own job.
Abbie Cornish and John Paul Ruttan play the non-robotic part of the Murphy family. But… meh. Abbie feels pretty much like Rachael Taylor in the first transfomers: Just a pretty face that talks loud. And Ruttan is just a kid, so…
Basically, it’s all you have. Directing is hard to get, mostly because the script seems trapped into two corners and never knows where it wants to go. And no, I’m not saying this to protect José Padilha just because he’s also Brazilian: maybe it was his idea to push both sides at the same time.
In the end, this remake feels like a giant puzzle in which not one piece, but at least ten are missing.