Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, sensuality and some drug material.
Starring Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Samuel L. Jackson, Aimee Garcia, Douglas Urbanski, John Paul Ruttan, Patrick Garrow, K.C. Collins, Daniel Kash, Zach Grenier.
Written by Joshua Zetumer, based on the 1987 film written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner.
Directed by José Padilha.
I have long lamented the absence of fresh ideas emanating from Hollywood over the past two decades. These days, it seems the only thing studios know is the overriding principle of banality, which leads us into films based on films (or “remakes,” if you prefer), films based on TV shows (even terrible TV shows) and the latest iron ferrite mine of movies based on video games. Heck, there are even movies inspired by untrue events (see: “found footage” farces). A new trend proves that the well is drying up so fast, the studios are green-lighting movie remakes only a few years after the release of the original (see: Spider Man). There used to be several decades between originals and re-treads, but necessity seems to have dictated exponential haste. The latest movie to get a “Mulligan” is Paul Verhoven’s RoboCop, released in 1987.
Set in future Detroit, the new-and-improved RoboCop stars Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman as Det. Alex Murphy, a man nearly killed by explosion outside his home. After losing most of his extremities, Omnicorp, a defense contractor specializing in robotics offers to save Murphy’s vital organs and implant them into a cyborg (half-man, half machine) unit. Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) streamlines the RoboCop program under extreme pressure from Omnicorp president Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), who wants to make a huge profit from selling robots and drones to law enforcement groups around the country. When Alex gets his robotic frame, he immediately sets out to solve his own attempted murder, but not before an awkward reunion with his wife (Abbie Cornish) and son (John Paul Ruttan).
One important “backdrop” element playing throughout the movie is commentary and media coverage of Omnicorp and the political/societal issues surrounding drones and security. That “fake media” play-by-play coverage is provided by blowhard commentator Jay Novak (Samuel L. Jackson), who’s supposed to come off as some kind of Lawrence O’Donnell/Bill O’Reilly.
As Murphy gets closer to the truth, he discovers that Omnicorp may not have his (or the country’s) best interest in mind, and he is forced to try an override his programming in order to bring the real culprits to justice.
Since it’s a re-make, let’s dispense with all the comparisons between the 1987 and 2014 versions of RoboCop. The first blaring difference is (of course) the improved special effects and action sequences in the new version. The plot and story in RC ’14 are a little more defined and linear, unlike the RC ’87 installment which seemed more like a series of vignettes involving Murphy in his milieu of being the biggest mechanical bada** in Detroit. Story, special effects and plot aside, the greater disparity between the new and old is the absence of Verhoven’s dark comedic satire, which is only barely present in Brazilian director Jose’ Padilha’s version (Sam Jackson aside). The humor is barely there, while any satire that exists is lost among all those cool computer-generated special effects.
It should be noted that RC ’14 is rated PG-13, unlike its predecessor. You can certainly tell where the new version skirts the line between PG-13 and R, which makes the new version seem a little watered-down.