Friday, February 14, 2014

Snow Screen: Robocop

Happy Robo-tines Day!  Ya know, because for some reason Presidents' Day weekend fell on Valentine's Day and the new Robocop is hitting theaters?

1987's Robocop is one of my favorite flicks of all time.  It's a great piece of existential action satire meets technology western.  Peter Weller is terrific in the role and Paul Verhoeven makes his U.S. directing debut one of the greatest of all time.  When I heard they were making a reboot, I figured it made sense in this world of big budget, special f/x driven superhero movies.  Nothing can detract from the original and let's face it, the ho-hum sequels, TV series and animated show had already diluted the brand so to speak.

So I went in to 2014's Robocop with no expectations but glimmers of hope as Jose Padilha's Elite Squad is terrifically intense and exciting while the casting took a cue from Batman Begins and Man of Steel by surrounding it's unproven leading man with great actors, this time including the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton.  After a clever opening involving the MGM logo and Jackson as a big mouthed TV newsman, my hopes were dashed as I honestly didn't give much of a shit about Joel Kinnaman's Alex Murphy, a Detroit detective investigating dirty cops and gun runners.  I had not seen any of Kinnaman's work before but his faux tough talking from the streets quickly got on my nerves.  Later I learned he hails from Sweden and does a similar American tough guy act TV's The Killing.  He just comes off as extremely bland.

After pissing off a local crime lord, Alex gets a face full of car bomb and his wife signs off on him becoming an experiment to merge man and machine in a bid to save his life.  You see, evil conglomerate Omni Consumer Products, OCP, has dispatched combat drones all over the world to fight terrorists and violence while not putting human, American lives at risk.  But they need to crack America or they're going to go broke.  Only problem is, America is "robo-phobic" and won't allow artificially intelligent drones on the streets.  Guy at the top Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) pushes benevolently brilliant Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) to find a solution that puts the heart and conscience of a man into the efficiently engineered shell of a machine.  Murphy's remains, literally: his brain, face, lungs, heart and right hand become the basis for Robocop.  Robo then sets off to solve his own murder, reconnect with his wife and child then fight the evil corporation that basically killed him and brought him back.

As a standalone film, Robocop goes for it and isn't too restrained by winking to the original which is nice.  One of my biggest issues with reboots and remakes these days is their need to try and reference and honor the original.  The original still exists, just make your own damn movie!  But I really lost interest and started to nod off during Murphy's transformation into Robocop origin story after the first 20 minutes.  Things picked up towards the end when Robo actually has something to do, i.e. solve his own murder, go after OCP, etc.  The flick ends with another great Samuel L. Jackson moment so while I can say Robocop 2014 started and ended well enough, everything in between just wasn't very compelling.  Kinnaman's weak performance didn't help either.  He just brought nothing to the table and gave you nothing to root for or be interested in.  Samuel L. Jackson and his amazing coifed hair were the real stars of this show.

While it's better than the Total Recall remake, Robocop probably won't be one for the history books.  Starship Troopers is next so let's see if Paul Verhoeven can make it 3 for 3 in beating remakes of his films.  Oh yeah, towards the end they tried to cram in a line from the original, "Dead or alive you are coming with me" which made me involuntarily blow raspberry and throw a thumbs down at the screen.

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