I can’t tell you how many times I watched the original “RoboCop” during my teen years. The 1987 sci-fi action flick was such a wild ride. It had a really cool mixture of wacky humor, slick satire, a great villain, and some insane (and frequently graphic) action sequences. Then I heard that MGM was bringing RoboCop back. Yes, yet another remake of a popular 1980’s movie. Then I see where this new RoboCop film was getting the dreaded February release date. All things pointed to this being a crappy movie.
But what a surprise it was to find this to be a cool and competent action movie. Let me say it again,”RoboCop” is surprisingly good and I am as shocked as anyone. This is essentially a reboot that takes many of the elements from the original film and adds a modern touch. It shuffles up the narrative a bit and it gets a fresh coat of CGI paint. But the core of the film is the same. It falls short of the first film in several areas, but it makes its own satisfying statement in others. Again, I was really surprised.
This “RoboCop” quickly lays out its politically charged landscape. The United States government has handed over its military reins to a multinational corporation known as OmniCorp. These guys have mastered advanced robot technology which allows for mechanical soldiers to replace humans. Their sales pitch points to how many lives have been saved in American military interests around the world. OmniCorp’s next big moneymaking venture is selling their products to local law enforcement. But a group of strong-willed senators and a very concerned public opinion stands in the way. This hodgepodge of political wrangling and big corporate greed is clearly intended as some sort of social satire. Well the message didn’t resonate with me, but it did set up an interesting landscape for the main story.
Speaking of the main story, this time around Swedish born actor Joel Kinnaman plays Detroit police detective Alex Murphy. He and his partner have been working undercover to bring down a local crime boss. But as he gets closer to blowing the top off the case, the bad guys get nervous and try to take Murphy out. A car bomb goes off leaving Murphy with severe burns, amputations, and no hope for survival. OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) approaches Murphy’s wife Clara (played by the lovely Abbie Cornish) and offers to save her husband’s life by placing him in a permanent robotic suit. Of course Sellars real intent is to put a face on his robot program in hopes of swaying public opinion.
One thing I was looking forward to was the return of Michael Keaton to a larger big screen role. I’ve always loved him dating back to his early madcap comedy style. While he is written to be your standard corporate baddie, Keaton brings a certain slimy panache to the role. It was great to see him back. There was also the casting of Gary Oldman as a scientist who struggles with the moral complexity of the RoboCop project. It’s a great role for Oldman and as you would expect he is fabulous. Then there is Samuel L. Jackson who plays a loud and opinionated cable news talk show host. We only see him via his broadcast and he is funny in spurts. But by his fourth appearance I was tired of him.
The funny thing about this film is that it flirts with a number of satirical themes and the story teases going in several different directions. But it pulls back on a number of occasions choosing to play it safe. There are several interesting turns that really hooked me and I wanted them to go further than they actually do. Still, there was enough in and around the central story to keep me involved. Some of the plot directions are really effective and very well conceived.
But many people will go to “RoboCop” looking for some good, old-fashioned action. They will definitely get it here. Director José Padilha definitely knows how to shoot action. There are some butt-kicking standout sequences, none better than a wicked shootout in a pitch black gang hideout. It’s stylish, kinetic, and a ton of fun. The technology is cool, the RoboCop suit looks great, and there are several other visual flares that I loved. For example one scene shows what is left of Murphy once he is stripped of his armor. It’s a wild and disturbing special effect that also fuels one of the movie’s bigger emotional moments.
So many of these modern remakes have turned out terrible (I’m looking at you “Red Dawn” and “Total Recall”). The good news is “RoboCop” certainly isn’t terrible. It isn’t as provocative as it wants to be. It isn’t as clever as it tries to be. It isn’t as witty as it needs to be. But it is more fun than I ever expected it to be. There is some great action, some really good performances, and enough depth to the story to make it a worthwhile science fiction romp. Don’t expect a deep cerebral experience. After all this is RoboCop. But I can honestly say, that it had a lot more to offer than I was ever expecting.
You make it seem better than I expected it to be. Perhaps I’ll give it a shot at some point.
It was a ton better than I expected. It’s certainly not a ground breaker but I was expecting utter crap.
Me too. 🙂
Nice review dude, and this is the first big sigh of relief I’ve taken reading reviews on it. Seems like there’s quite a bit of mixed opinion, but I am definitely going to add it to my list of things to see next.
Just need this snow to melt so i can actually get out to the movies. . . .;)
Hope you like it. It’s nothing monumental but its a really good time. Better yet it was considerably better than I ever expected. I really thought this thing was gonna be crap. It was a nice surprise especially if you’re looking for some old school fun.
I haven’t bothered with the Red Dawn and Total Recall remakes but Robocop is getting decent reviews so I’ll be sure to check it out. Maybe it’ll surprise me too.
I think I have reviews for both of those crappy flicks in the archive. Let me just say DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME!
RoboCop is considerably better than either of the other two. Not perfect but quite fun.
Good review Keith. It makes some interesting choices here and there to differentiate itself a tad bit from the original, but not all that many to where it feels like the slightest improvement at all. Instead, it’s just a bit better than any RoboCop remake had any right to be.
Thanks. I’m with you, it’s definitely not better than the original but its a lot better than I expected it to be. It was a nice surprise.
We’re pretty much in agreement on this remake Keith, I was quite entertained by it. After the awful Total Recall remake, I didn’t have much expectations for this one but to my surprise, I enjoyed it. I too am a big fan of the original, I begged my parents to buy the VHS for me when I was in my early teens and watched it till the cassette was ruined. Ha ha.
I didn’t think Keaton delivered on being the big bad corporate baddie though, he’s too slick and not menacing enough. He’s no Dick Jones, lol.
Awesome to hear we share the same thoughts. I honestly went in thinking this thing was going to be horrible. The trailers gave me nothing to be excited about. I was surprised at what I saw.
I see what you’re saying about Keaton. He’s very different than Dick Jones. But I really don’t think it’s his fault. I think it’s how the character is written. Keaton’s character is more of the deceptive and slimy type, not just to the public but also to his underlings. I kind of liked that variation.
Looks like we had a lot of the same thoughts then! 🙂
YES! Absolutely! And I never expected it. I thought the trailers look like crap and that this movie didn’t have a chance. Love being wrong! 🙂
Great review Keith. Like some of the other readers, I’m very relieved that it doesn’t seem to be as bad as I feared it might be. I think I’ll chance a theater viewing!
Thanks for reading! It stuns me to say this but give it a shot. It’s actually quite fun. There are a few narrative hiccups but compared to what I thought this would be…
Another surprisingly positive review for this one! I’d told myself I wouldn’t see this but I’m slowly coming round to it. Might check it out if I get the chance.
Give it a watch. Maybe it will stun you as it did me. I just happened to be off yesterday otherwise I probably would never have seen it at the theater. It’s certainly not perfect but it’s certainly not bad film either. It’s a fun retro action flick. Just kick your feet up, don’t expect something grand, and have a great time with it.
I quite liked this too. I thought spending some more time with Murphy pre-RoboCop and establishing his connection with his family was definitely the right choice.
It really worked, didn’t it? I thought it did take a few chances that paid off. Ultimately it did play it safe though but that didn’t hurt it as a whole. I had a surprisingly good time with it.
Good review I agree, much better than I expected 😀
That seems to be the consensus. I don’t think anyone expected this thing to actually be decent.
No they did not 😀
Great review. This one’s getting a lot more positive reviews than I was expecting. Might have to go see it.
Yep, give it a shot. Definitely not the bore-fest I was anticipating.
I’m probably going to catch this on DVD because of Abbie Cornish – she is such a talented actress and she really deserves to be in more ambitious movies than this one.
I like her too but this is a good movie. It’s not what I would call great but it far from being the lame disaster I anticipated. I thought Cornish (aside from looking gorgeous) really does good work.
My friend Ted went with my hubby to see this, I think they liked it as much as you did Keith. I’m hoping to see this next weekend as now I’m really curious about it.
Isn’t it fun when you are surprised by a movie that you never expected to be good? This is certainly no groundbreaker and I’m sure it won’t be on my Best of 2014 list. But it’s a fun and very well-made action movie that completely caught me off guard. I love it when that happens! 🙂
Great review! I was a bit reluctant with this one but now, after reading your review I will probably watch it next week. Thanks and continue your great work!
Really appreciate the kind words. Hope to hear from you more.
RoboCop was quite the surprise. I know I keep saying that to people but I really thought this was going to be a bad movie. It’s well worth your time. It’s nothing cerebral but it’s a lot of fun.
I had high hopes for this one after being surprised by the trailer – it made it look like it could be really quite good. I’m glad it has something going for it. Good piece of writing Keith.
Thanks Dan. Appreciate the kind words. It’s funny I had a different reaction to the trailer. For some reason it looked bland to me. Also considering the current track record with remakes, I just didn’t see how this movie could possibly be good. Love it when I’m wrong.
I guess I can take a “good” remake over a “shitty” one, but i still don’t think they even needed to make it. Ah well, we’ll always have the original.
I had quite a bit of fun with this one although it’s hard to argue that they needed to do it. I’m assuming Hollywood creativity has given way to a brain cramp Why else do we have so many 80s remakes. Footloose, Total Recall, Red Dawn. We should do a pool on what will be the next. What do you think? I say The Lost Boys (another original I really loved). I’m sure they will ruin it next.
I’m definitely going to check this out, as I’ve been surprised at the praise it has got. Shame on the entire world for expecting a dud, eh?!! I’ve also watched the first one waaaaay too many times so it’s good to hear this is a decent film and that it has some of the same spirit as the original.
It is definitely a decent film and worth checking out. I was certainly one of those who expected it to stink. I mean nothing about it appealed to me yet I went to see it mainly because (like you) I have seen the original many times. I would never say this is as good as the original, but it is a rare case of a remake offering up a good experience.
That said, there is no Clarence Boddicker or Dick Jones. Did you notice how the original gave the greatest parts to the villains?
Oh they were brilliant! Someone somewhere needs to cast Kurtwood Smith in a really good villain role once again!
No doubt! I swear he gave us one of the best villain performances of all time. High praise I know, but he really did. So many great lines but he also had this cold and calloused personality. That is one thing this new movie doesn’t go for.
Interested in checking this one out as I really want to know how it compares. I shortly talked with Verhoeven about Robocop and it makes me wonder if they have made of the same choices he has in bringing it to the screen.
This one touches on a few of the things that made the original such fun. But honestly the two have a very different feel to them. Still I was REALLY surprised to find it quite fun!
i totally agree the trailer was pile of crap, the film itself wasn’t great but it was tolerable … most of the time. Sure there was some dead spots in the middle and the end was somehow disappointing but overall if you know what are you getting into you could find a way to enjoy it.
It certainly doesn’t live up to the original but its more entertaining than I ever expected it to be. Then again my expectations were incredibly low.
mine too, that is why we found some positives in the film