One of my favorite childhood movies, 1987’s Robocop, is the latest to get fed through Hollywood’s reboot machine.
Director Jose Padilha’s remake of the sci-fi action movie classic focuses on Detective Alex Murphy (The Killing’s Joel Kinnaman) who, after being critically injured by a car bomb, is brought back to life by OmniCorp and Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman).
OmniCorp’s CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) is focused on putting robots on America’s street to fight crime but also make OmniCorp billions of dollars. The only thing in his way is the Dreyfus Act, a law that prevents the use of drones on American soil. The answer to getting the law repealed: Robocop – a police officer that’s part human and part robot.
While Sellars and OmniCorp are focused on their product, Murphy is dealing with the emotions of being 90% robot while fighting crime and looking for notorious crime boss Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow), the man he believes is responsible for the car bomb.
In the same vein as the original, 2014’s Robocop touches on themes like capitalism, police corruption, media bias ( Samuel L Jackson as political talk show host Pat Novak), national security, and human nature. The big theme in this film is the “humanity” of Robocop. There are questions like how human is he and what makes someone human. And of course there’s the age old man v. machine battle. It’s an interesting theme to focus the movie around, but there’s not nearly enough time to make it an interesting angle in the story or even answer those questions.
The film also lays ground work for the relationships Murphy has with his wife (Abbie Cornish), son, and partner Jack (Michael K Williams), but they only become pawns for the film’s third act. The time with his family feels wasted. The story could’ve used those minutes to build a story around Vallon as the movie’s super villain. A hero is only as good as the villains that push him. Oh well, I guess people would rather see Murphy Skype with his wife and talk to his son about hockey.
As enjoyable as Kinnaman is as Murphy, he’s less enjoyable as Robocop. It’s not Kinnaman’s fault. The story sucks most of the personality out of the character and when he is able to show some he toggles between being Wyatt Earp and a Terminator with a license to kill. The energy Robocop brought whenever he was onscreen in 1987 is missing from this reboot. The film desperately needs a shot of personality.
If it sounds like I’m complaining about the movie that would be partially correct. The film is way more enjoyable that it has any business being. The action is good, Kinnaman is a great when the story allows him to be, and the scenes with Oldman and Keaton are great. But just like Robocop, the film is missing a few pieces that would make it complete.