Nice shootin’ son

Can remake of 80’s classic hold up to original?

By Carlos Razo
Staff Writer

3 out of 5 stars

With a recent flood of Hollywood remakes being pumped out each year, it was only a matter of time until someone picked up “Robocop.”

A genre legend and local icon (the series takes place in Detroit), the story of Alex Murphy’s transformation into a robotic crime-fighter pushed action-movies to new heights with innovative special effects and nuanced storytelling, unusual to science-fiction blockbusters.

Now, in 2014, how does Hollywood repackage one of movies’ most memorable heroes? The answer is obvious: paint him black. The ironic thing is, as everything nowadays needs more bite to resonate with audiences, this cop seems to have lost his edge. It felt too safe.

After an undercover drug bust goes south, police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is nearly murdered by the criminals he was trying to catch. In critical condition, robotics engineering company Omnicorp and their CEO, Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton), offer to give Murphy a second chance. Placing the surviving bits of his brain and respiratory system in a robotic life-support system, Murphy is reborn as Robocop, a crime-fighter designed to put a face on the lifeless military weapons Omnicorp is developing.

Assisting Murphy is Dr. Dennet Norton (Gary Oldman), who develops the suit as well as Murphy’s programming. As the media becomes more attentive and Murphy’s own morality becomes present in his programming, the ethics of what it means to be human quickly comes into play.

The original “Robocop” is notorious for being extremely violent, as Murphy’s execution scene still stands up as one of cinemas most shocking deaths. With tons of pulpy energy and a surge of revenge propelling it forward, the original kept things gory and satisfying without being mean-spirited.

This new version plays it straight, pandering to the PG-13 popcorn-flick crowd, which ultimately made it seem a bit dull. If the action was more creative and less noisy, it would not have been a problem, but things do not seem as fresh, exciting, or as exhilarating as they could have, and frankly, should have been. The climax ultimately lacks punch and most action sequences were predictable, albeit entertaining.

Kinnaman is a suitable replacement for Peter Weller (who played Robocop for two films).  The remake places greater emphasis on Murphy’s family as well as the corruption within Omnicorp. This grounds the film emotionally — and it works. Keaton makes an awesome villain, with a slow descent from charismatic businessman to ruthless criminal. Oldman is engaging as always, but Abbie Cornish (who plays Murphy’s wife, Clara) is unfortunately dull in performance.

So, how does this version hold up to the classic? It will not stick with you after the credits role, but it is entertaining and involves enough references to still warrant a viewing for fans of the original. Sometimes a movie should simply entertain and “Robocop” accomplished that.  I’d buy that for a dollar any day.