Pros: Occasional powerful scenes questioning Murphy’s humanity.
Cons: An unnecessary, pointless, tepid remake.
Back in 1987, Paul Verhoven unleashed upon the world a darkly sardonic, violent as hell eighties action flick – Robocop. It was a masterpiece of satire and a damn good action flick in it’s own right. Since then, we got a mediocre sequel, a terrible sequel, an excruciatingly bad television series and an even worse television series. And now, since Hollywood has completely run out of original concepts, remakes the very first movie: Robocop 2014.
Directed by José Padilha of The Elite Squad fame, Robocop ’14 is the story of Alex Murphy (Played by Joel Kinnaman), a Detroit Police Officer who has Cowboy Cop tendencies that tend to get him in trouble with The Chief, because he acts on his hunches first. His justification in this case is that since he and his partner were investigating dirty cops, calling for backup would alert the guys they were after. Unfortunately, their attempt to nail the bad guys goes wrong and Murphy’s partner Lewis (now a black dude and not an ass-kicking female) ends up in the hospital.
The crime lord the dirty cops work for wants Murphy out of the picture as well, but with his hands clean, since cop killers get the enmity of the entire police force. The dirty cops do the dirty work for him, and tag his car with a bomb. When Murphy is badly hurt in the resulting explosion, enter Omni Corp, who has been looking for a way to get their crime-stopping robots on the streets of an American city. See, the American people don’t feel comfortable with a soulless, unfeeling robot patrolling their streets, so putting a human face on a robot seems to be just the angle needed to achieve market penitration. They convince Murphy’s wife how serious her husband’s injuries are, how rebuilding him as a cyborg is his only real chance at survival.
Murphy wakes to discover what was done to him, and is horrified, begging to be unplugged when Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), the doctor overseeing Murphy’s reconstruction, convinces him to live. But when Murphy fails to outperform against a fully automated machine, Omnicorp CEO Sellars (Michael Keaton) commands Norton to make it work by reprogramming Murphy to make the decision making fully automated while deceiving Murphy into thinking he’s made the choices. Even worse, Murphy has an emotional breakdown when the footage of his own attempted murder is uploaded along with the rest of the criminal database. The only way Norton can see to stop this is to adjust Murphy’s brain chemistry so much that he eventually becomes emotionless.
Murphy’s humanity reasserts itself. He hunts down those who tried to kill him, then goes after Omni Corp blah, blah, blah, blah. Happy ending with wife. Whatever.
*sigh* I should have known better. Why do I keep doing this to myself? It was below average pedestrian, mediocre at best. A waste of film, and worse – a waste of my two hours that I will never ever get back.
First up, my whole pile of problems that I have with any modern action flicks: a tepid score, the action scenes were all herky-jerky messes, and nobody in Hollywood can compose a damn shot anymore, that gorgeous cinematography is a long dead art. However these issues are the same ones that can be applied to EVERY big budget action flick for the last fifteen years, so I don’t hold these issues against Robocop (or at least any more than I do with any other action movie of the Aughts and beyond). Moving on. . . .
As far as specific Robocop issues – first was the complete lack of strong Bad Guy. There’s no Clarence Boddicker, no Dick Jones, no Cain – who while trapped in a shit movie was a pretty strong villain. The drug lord was a non-entity and the OCP overlord was pretty inert until the final reel and then only a pretty tepid bad guy, as if someone at the final draft stage of the scripting process said “Hey! OCP was bad! We should make our faceless megacooperation bad too! and then never bothered to actually rewrite the previous 180 pages to actually reflect that.
There was nothing memorable about the movie, nothing iconic. There was no melting man, no “Bitches, leave”, no I’d Buy That For a Dollar guy, no good quotable lines (that weren’t recycled from the first film), there was nothing that stood out as truly awesome moments. Here, these iconic moments are replaced with vapid nothingness, a feeling of having been somewhat entertained by Greg Kinnear clone number 27 and a roster of established stars whose powers lay hidden beneath the clouds. Do you really believe Joel Kinnaman will, once he reaches age 60 or so, elicit the same respect and awe as old fart of awesomeness Peter Weller does? I’d buy an eight hour movie of Peter drinking a glass of water. This new guy? Not so much.
The original Robocop, stripped of its 1980s specifics, is still pretty timeless, with plenty of practical effects that freak out the squeamish and make the film shine with giddy, giddy happiness as pure and straight as Verhoeven’s demands. This new one. . . .not so much. It’s a sign of our times in that it is filled with plenty nonsensical action, downgraded violence, cheap rewritten cop outs in order to be more marketable to younger consumers. It’s a doughy lie filled with empty calories and some CGI fizzle. This one has got no soul.
And most importantly – what is the movie about? There was a clear central theme that resonated throughout the Good Robocop that they danced briefly with but never exploited – well, until the very end on the rooftop showdown where Corrupt OCP Boss said “You’re nothing but a robot”. No he’s fucking not – he’s been a human in a goofy rubber suit the whole movie long. RoboCop ’14 is a tonal mess that can’t decide what sort of movie it wants to be. Is it about drones? Is it about a man who has lost his humanity? Is it about corrupt police? None of these pieces feel particularly satisfying and its not helped by the fact that Kinnaman and Cornish are leaden throughout. The only time the movie really works is when Oldman is on the screen, but even that is just as an exposition device.
The original worked so well because – aside from the satire and cool action bits – there was a compelling story arc about humanity, where Murphy goes from ordinary guy to soulless automaton and back to human being (in spirit, if not body). Underneath all the explosions and squibs, there was heart. Here, there was never a triumph of the human spirit. Murphy never struggled with his lack of humanity, OCP never treated him like property (well, aside from Australian Weapons Jerk). He was always Alex and never Robocop.
The flick is at it’s best when it’s playing with the idea of instead of a machine coming to terms with being a man, a man coming to terms being trapped in a machine. The scene where Alex demands to see himself out of the suit for the first time was extremely powerful, the actor just owned that scene. There was always the montage and the rundown of what was left of Murphy in the original, but this time around it was just so much jarring and riveting due to A) the effects used and B) Murphy’s awareness of what he’s lost and been thrust upon him without his consent. But the movie didn’t do anything with it, beyond “Hey, here’s a cool concept! Now lets move on!”
Oh, also – fuck this PG 13 nonsense. Fuck it all to hell! It’s too clean, too video game like. The violence in the original served two purposes – it was so over the top to the point of ridiculousness. It reinforced the movie as a black comedy. Ed-209 blowing away the guy in the board room goes on and on and on and on and on almost to the point of being a parody. Or Murphy being dismembered by Clarance – it was suppose to be horrific. He was, in essence, being slowly raped. It was suppose to be powerful.
And mister Sam Jackson? Please never have hair again. After 15 years of awesome baldness, you look really weird – and considerably less sexy – with a full head.
THE BAD MOVIE SCORECARD –
BULLETS EXPENDED: Several Hundred
COOL EXPLOSIONS: Five
HOW MANY TITS: Zero (Stupid PG-13)
SPRING LOADED CATS: 0
TOTAL BODY COUNT: 47 (although it’s hard to say, since Murphy has a taser)
GALLONS OF BLOOD USED: Zero
MOST MEMORABLE DEATH: Murphy, I guess – although none of them are really cool or memorable.
THE DVD –
Details coming soon
THE EXTRAS –
Details coming soon
THE BOTTOM LINE –
If someone is forcing you to watch this movie at gunpoint, my advice to you? Take the bullet instead.
I give it .5 I’d Buy That For A Dollars out of 5