Would You Buy That For A Dollar? You know that show would be top 10 in the Nielsens if it aired on CBS today, right?
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three jars of baby food out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Mortally wounded cop helps sinister corporation violate Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics.
Tagline: "Crime has a new enemy."
Better Tagline: "You'll love it, it looks just like a TeleFunken U47."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Pop quiz, hotshot: your company has cornered the overseas market on mechanized urban pacification, but has been shut out of the domestic arena by a pesky law (the "Dreyfuss Act") forbidding the use of law enforcement robots on American soil. What do you do? Well, if you're OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), you convince eminent robotics scientist Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) to weasel around the law by creating a cop that's both man *and* machine. A ... "robocop," if you will.
"Critical" Analysis: First off, there was never a chance that a remake of the 1987 classic was going to measure up, so expecting anyone -- even Elite Squad director José Padilha -- to approach the greatness of the original is a sure recipe for disappointment. If you're exepecting the Padilha and the new RoboCop to somehow match the biting satire and shocking violence Paul Verhoeven brought to the screen, don't bother.
Instead, he and screenwriter Joshua Zetumer have attempted to update the character to reflect potential realities. In RoboCop's near future (2028), the ED-209s and humanoid EM-208s (referred to as "drones") are used across the globe by our military. Modern concerns over drone technology are echoed in the film by widespread public opposition to domestic implementation, spearheaded by Senator Dreyfuss (Zach Grenier), while a belligerent opposing view is presented on television nightly by the flamboyant Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson).
But where the future of law enforcement in Verhoeven's film was the result of internal corporate ratfuckery, Sellars and his team are instead trying to pull a fast one over Congress and the American people. It's a somewhat broader play on white collar scorn for the public than Dick Jones sneering, "Who *cares* if it worked or not?" (and probably not a coincidence, given how the general population ranks corporate America somewhere between the Dallas Cowboys and syphillis in favorability polls).
RoboCop is therefore a much more linear effort, and Padilha and Zetumer are less interested in making humorous (and occasionally sadly accurate) predictions about the future of American than in telling the story of Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman). No longer the fresh-faced transfer from suburbia, this Murphy is a veteran detective working undercover to bring down a local crime boss named Vallon. One of the few good cops in a bad town, Murphy is critically injured by a car bomb planted by Vallon's corrupt buddies in the DPD, and so begins his journey to robot cop-ness.
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Vallon, however, is no Clarence Boddicker (he's really no more formidable than, say, Abobo from Double Dragon), and the main conflict Murphy faces after getting his extreme makeover (which admittedly involves some nifty effects) is retaining his humanity when OmniCorp decides dopamine is for dopes and cuts off his supply. This makes him a more efficient RoboCop, but effectively eliminates his humanity, meaning it's now even more difficult for him to acclimate his wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) and son with his new chassis and hardware.
Without the specter of Peter Weller and the 6000 SUX and "I'd buy that for a dollar!" hanging over it, this new RoboCop would be a perfectly functional actioner. The two big set pieces are paced well and one in particular is shot in particularly innovative fashion. Kinnaman is more or less channeling Holder from The Killing, but effectively, while Keaton portrays a much more affable Evil CEO than Ronny Cox in the original. The addition of Jackie Earle Haley as OmniCorp's weapons guy, makes me (as always) wish he got more work. And as much as I love Omar from The Wire (Michael K. Williams), I can't help wondering why they decided to make Lewis a dude this time around.
Sigh. I'm doing it now. I admit, RoboCop is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I rewatch it at least once a year. I'm not completely sold on this new version, but if you go see it, try to give it a fairer assessment than it looks like I was able to.
RoboCop is in theaters today. It's back! Big is back, because bigger is better than ever!