BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
JUNE 2, 2014
Gary Oldman is a bonafide savior. Now, do not get me wrong, I do not believe he is godly, but I do recognize that he has a saving power in which each film he graces ends up being way more enjoyable because of his presence. The remake of “RoboCop” is no different. Set in a world where putting a man inside a machine has not yet happened, José Padilha’s take on the robotic cop action flick does not extrapolate on the previous endeavors, nor does it follow any of the rhetoric established in prior films. Had it been given any other name, people may not have held it to the standards they placed on the over-the-top, violence-ladened ‘80s and ‘90s films. But it does share the name and here we are with endless comparisons.
Joel Kinnaman, best known for his highlight role in “The Killing”, steps into suit this time around, as Alex Murphy, an undercover cop who finds himself against one of the biggest bad guys in 2028 Detroit. After the mob boss orders his extermination via car bomb, Murphy is left barely alive, leaving a wife (Abbie Cornish) and son behind. Murphy’s story is told parallel to one about OmniCorp, a company that specializes in military robotics. Used mainly overseas to keep the peace, the head of OmniCorp, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) dreams of a day where these robots could be protecting American soil. Backed by talk show host Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson), military man Rick Mattox (Jackie Earle Haley), and the reluctant Dr. Dennett Norton (the incomparable Gary Oldman), Sellars sets out to “put a man in the machine” as to appease those who believe robots lack the conscience of a human being in making life or death decisions. This is where the stories collide, as Murphy is that man in the machine.
There truly is a magic to Gary Oldman that sells any role that he steps into. As Dr. Norton, Oldman holds onto the most conflicted character of the film, as he struggles with what he wants in way of the advancement of robotics for helping people and what he believes to be wrong, like operating on Murphy’s brain when he does not comply the way that Sellars would like him too. Murphy has conflicting emotions as well, but like most of his become robotic at a certain point in the film, Oldman’s character remains the only raw emotion to take hold throughout most of the film. Cornish spends most of the film crying and seeing as how her husband is dead, I say rightfully so, but never being allowed to shine, her role becomes ladened with depression and nagging. Although it is nice to see Keaton working again, he and Haley share the same bad guy personas that make you dislike them and not in the way that you love to hate certain villains, but simply not enjoying their time on the screen.
“RoboCop” tries to make a point, drawing clear similarities to notions that fall under “national security” and the general public giving up certain freedoms. While making those distinctions, however, especially through Jackson’s Novak, the points become cheesy and laughable, with Novak blindly siding with OmniCorp and making ridiculous statements that simply cannot be taken seriously. Add to that the main character that is mostly robotic for a huge portion of the film, and you have a narrative that is lacking. Suspense may be built as the mystery unfolds, but to imagine a father that can no longer go home to his family is disheartening from beginning to end and offers no real resolution or facade of a happy ending. Instead, you have conflicting forces with no one ever really gaining an advantage. But, with a glimmer of originality and a new paint job on the robot suit, “RoboCop” never quite feels like a retread, and as stated earlier, should have simply not carried the same franchise name. With glossy production value, relying less on visual effects, and Gary Oldman stealing the show, “RoboCop” is far from a failure and could even garner enough sympathy to spawn a sequel of its own. But if Gary Oldman’s not returning, then a lackluster sequel it will be.
February 12, 2014
by Edward Neumeier & Michael Miner
Sony Pictures Releasing
(for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, sensuality and some drug material)
Jackie Earle Haley
Michael K. Williams
Samuel L. Jackson