RoboCop (2014) Movie Review

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Joel Kinnaman and Gary Oldman in RoboCop (2014) Movie Image

The future of law enforcement is here, or back, or however you want to say it. Look I’m just going to get this out of the way now: “RoboCop” 2014 or Robo2.0 is NOT a straight retelling of the classic 80’s Paul Verhoeven flick. It’s just not, and it never tries to be. I am a child of the 80’s. I grew up with big hair, loud music, questionable fashion trends, and bigger than life action movie heroes. When the original “RoboCop” hit it was like a surge of lightning to the industry. Youngins like myself loved the over the top violence and tongue in cheek satire, while completely missing the subtext and biting social commentary about inequality, corporate greed, consumerism, and drug use. Okay, maybe not that last one. Verhoeven’s film was about America at that time.

Okay let’s get the basics out the way for the uninitiated: Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman, “The Killing”) is a good cop and family man. After a case he’s working on involving a notorious gunrunner goes bad, he is critically injured in a car bombing as retribution. This gives OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton, do I need to say who he is?) the opportunity to solve the problem he’s been having with selling his robo soldiers and drones in the States. By putting a “man in a machine,” he seeks to circumvent the issue of soulless protectors policing the streets with the ability to take a life. And thus RoboCop is born. Sounds fairly simple, and very much like the original. But the similarities pretty much end there.

Joel Kinnaman in RoboCop (2014) Movie Image

I’m going to get my one major issue with this film out in the open right now. It didn’t have a true villain. Sure, Keaton plays a smarmy CEO, and RoboCop needs that in the story, but it doesn’t have a Clarence Boddicker (played by a deliciously evil Kurtwood Smith in the original). The man’s character stuck with me so much that when “That 70’s Show” first started, all I could see was Red throwing Eric out the house saying, “Can you fly, Bobby?!?” This film needed that. They had potential with drugrunner Antoine Vallon, but they didn’t do enough with him. Jackie Earle Haley was sort of an antagonist (and was partly wasted for what they were trying to do with him) as OmniCorp’s military expert and drone handler. But nothing on the level of Boddicker or Miguel Ferrer’s OCP opportunist Bob Morton.

When this film was first announced there was a lot of trepidation about it. Fans of the franchise who have dealt with the subpar sequels, lackluster TV shows, and other outings of their favorite cyborg were excited but apprehensive, and the new glossy black look didn’t help quell their fears. Well as a fan I’m here to tell you that this reboot (I’m using reboot instead of remake as it is a decidedly different film) is worth the price of admission. In some ways the story is actually better than the original. Now before you get your torches and pitchforks, let me explain. Both films are very much a product of their times, with the reboot a more politically and philosophically minded film.

Joel Kinnaman and Abbie Cornish in RoboCop (2014) Movie Image

Where the original “RoboCop” glossed over Murphy’s family, the reboot focuses on it. Where “RoboCop” was more machine than man, and had to recover his memories and find a personality, Robo2.0 has his memories intact, and it’s the recovery of his humanity that is the journey. There is still the revenge story, and in the end it still becomes Robo vs OmniCorp, but the journey is more nuanced and thought provoking. Just because you can merge a human and a machine, should you? How far before there is more man than machine? And how much of the man, makes up the man? That last question is especially important during a scene where what’s left of Murphy’s body is shown to him. It’s this moral dilemma that permeates the film, with the debate over OmniCorp’s drones another.

But it’s the action you care about, right? There definitely could’ve been more, and it’s not the bright, blood splattering type of the original, but it is still pretty damned good. Jose Padilha cut his teeth on some intense action flicks with the “Elite Squad” series, and that same kind of frenetic action makes its way to Robo2.0 and then some. The fight with the multiple Ed-209s is just insane, and there’s a night vision shootout that’s pretty good. That said, one more action scene wouldn’t have hurt. The film also benefits from a good cast. Gary Oldman plays Dr. Norton, an OmniCorp scientist who is convinced to help with the project with the promise of more funding for his prosthetic research. A good man who ends up sacrificing his morals in order to further his research, Oldman could’ve been wasted, but instead shines. Keaton works his magic, too, and Jackie Earle Haley shows why height doesn’t matter when you’re a badass. Abbie Cornish had very little to work with as Clara Murphy, but she does have a few moments.

Joel Kinnaman in RoboCop (2014) Movie Image

Michael K. Williams takes over the role of Lewis, Murphy’s partner, who was a tough lady cop (as shown by her gum chewing and general badassery) played famously by Nancy Allen in the original. Williams gets less to do than Cornish, but they establish the importance of his friendship with Murphy in one scene where Lewis is with the family and Robo is about to meet the public. And finally, everyone’s favorite boisterous personality played a part made for him. Samuel L. Jackson is Pat Novak, a conservative, Bill O’Reily type with a Fox News style show “The Novak Element,” where we get to see his version of current events. A staunch OmniCorp ally, he pushes for the repeal of the law banning drones in the States. He’s almost the equivalent of a Greek chorus in an ancient play, and is a great replacement for the silly commercials and such of the original.

“I’d buy that for a dollar!”

This is definitely one of the better reboots out of Hollywood, and carves its own path away from the original. I give it props for not being afraid to do something different. Instead, Padilha gave us an updated story, using today’s issues and fears. If you’re on the fence about this one, don’t be, and hop on down and hit the theaters.

José Padilha (director) / Joshua Zetumer (screenplay)
CAST: Joel Kinnaman … Alex Murphy / RoboCop
Gary Oldman … Dr. Dennett Norton
Michael Keaton … Raymond Sellars
Abbie Cornish … Clara Murphy
Jackie Earle Haley … Rick Mattox
Michael K. Williams … Jack Lewis
Samuel L. Jackson … Pat Novak

Buy RoboCop on DVD or Blu-ray

Author: Dedpool

Movies, Comics, Anime and toons. I'm all about it. Love to read and write too.
  • schnydz

    Sweet! Can’t wait to check it out.

  • venja

    we did not watch the same movie. No part of this story was good. The family aspect of the film took away completely from everything else that was going on. the lack of action and also the fact their was no bad guy only compounded this. The studio clearly wanted to cash in on the name (it’s a PG certificate!!!) The reason the original works is because it is so layered in its satire, as a teen you watch it for it violence as an adult you watch because of the wit and satire. this has neither. Novak is a very welcome touch but thats about it. This actually one of the worst films (and i’ve seen The Story of Ricky O) i’ve ever seen.

    • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Dedpool

      To each their own. I love the original. I really do. But it’s pretty much over the top and campy. I mean yeah the satire and commentary still stand but looking back on it (and the original Total Recall) they were both pure Verhoven flicks. nudity+gore&action+satire=Verhoven flick. But that was the 80′s. That doesn’t work today. The violence and nudity wouldn’t (damn U..S are prudes) and the commentary has to be current, so the drones, and moral use of technology is a good topic given the subject. I whole heartedly agree about the lack of villain obviously, but the connection to his family to me was a great addition to the story.

      • venja

        I think more than anything else it like a lot of things tried to be too PC and lost a lot of it soul in the process. Taking the Dredd remake as an example the original tried to hard to suit mass audiences where as the remake was basically The Raid with guns, the result a much better film overall. And one that will stand the test of time as more and more see it. I just think the studios need to grow some balls and stop trying to make everything a family movie. Not everything has to be Marvel styled to be successful, less we forget Blade was liked because the fact it was actual adult.
        We really need a Verhoven in this day and age Showgirls excluded most of his films are very watchable and still hold relevance to this day.
        Just my 2 pence.

        • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Dedpool

          On that last part I whole heartedly agree. The thing is it’s all about $ and it seems ultra violence doesn’t make $ the way it used to.
          As for your Dredd example, that is not exactly a good one. The original sucked. Other than the first 20 minutes, the film was pretty bad (thanks Rob Schneider) while the remake truly got the essence of the source material. Blade was a good example, but Watchmen is an a good example of how the industry has shyed away from R rated films sadly.

  • Debo4735

    I really like this movie and I prefer it over the 80′s one. Mostly because I’ve grown, and my mind has grown and the graphics in the 80′s movie don’t even compare to what I just saw in the new Robocop. It could have been more glory I agree and the lack of a true villain didn’t help. It was totally a reboot, and I liked it. You know what they should remake is…Big Trouble in Little China.

    • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Dedpool

      I want a sequel with the Clarence Boddicker character, played by Walton Goggins (justified) he’d kill the role.
      And yes a Big Trouble in Little China remake would rock. My friend and I already thought that out and made some interesting changes that would work well and make for a nostalgic yet updated ride.

  • babylon

    I was pleased to hear that Gareth Evans interview, Were he said he doesn’t yet know how to make a PG film, Know where near enough R Rated action stuff out there.

  • lily

    I enjoyed it a lot. It was also really scary and creepy. That scene where they show us how little of human is left inside robocop almost gave me nightmares.
    And the way the doctor kept messing up with the brain, without alex even realising, had me thinking how much of it is possible. And then they gave us hope by letting something (a soul maybe) to win over all the changed parts in the brain. Human defeated robot. So this movie has also a deeper message.
    And i also really loved the original movie as a kid, had it and the tv series on VHS.

    • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Dedpool

      YES!!! The human spirit and will triumph over technology. I loved that. It’s essentially the same as a person performing superhuman feats (lifiting a car, truck, etc) to save someone. His will and spirit rewrote the programming. This was a good update of the story. Sure it could’ve used a proper villain and some more action but it was still very good in my opinion.