Writer: Joshua Zetumer, Edward Nuemeier & Michael Miner (1987 script)
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael Williams
Running time: 118mins
The lowdown: Elite Squad director Jose Padilha bravely or foolishly takes on the impossible mission of rebooting Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop. Saddled with a contractual PG-13 rating, it’s no surprise that the result is an assembly line action vehicle sorely lacking the anarchic human touch that made the original hit home with a bullet. Robo may look slicker than he did in 1987, but someone should have oiled the rusty script.
The full verdict: Ah, RoboCop. The ultra-violent, satirical, wild masterpiece that Ken Russell named “the best science fiction film since Metropolis”.
2014’s RoboCop isn’t the best science fiction to come out in the UK in its week of release. Mr Peabody and Sherman takes that crown.
The opening 20 minutes bodes cautiously optimistic. After having fun with the MGM logo, the film hurtles into a Tehran based pre-credit sequence where RoboCop-alike drones and revamped ED 209s intimidate locals into good behaviour, before it all goes suicide bomby.
Cut to the Detroit of 2028 and Alex Murphy (The Killing’s Kinnaman) on the trail of a mob boss and smelling multiple rats within his police precinct. Before anyone can say “Good night, sweet prince” he’s critically wounded in a car bomb explosion (toned down from the original’s still grim firearm murder) and reborn as RoboCop.
Which is when the movie short circuits.
Edward Nuemeier and Michael Miner’s 1987 script was funny, lean and startlingly prophetic about the economic downturn and rapacious corporations monetising the military.
And it couldn’t wait to get Robo out on the streets to dispense justice.
Instead of shredding rapists’ nethers, this RoboCop is saddled with soppy family issues courtesy of permanently dewy eyed wife Abbie Cornish and a central casting cute kid.
The Big Bad Plan similarly employs less than 1K of memory: Michael Keaton’s evil Johnny Vaughn looking CEO wants to use Robo to get a lucrative bill passed that will put robot police on America streets.
Memo to writer Joshua Zetumer: action films shouldn’t rely on senate votes for their thrills. And no, an underwritten police corruption subplot does not compensate.
Gary Oldman (a conflicted Dr Frankenstein), Jackie Earle Haley (Keaton’s Special Forces lapdog) and Samuel L. Jackson (unfunny, over the top Fox News style anchorman) add cast name kudos but little impact in paper thin roles.
But, what crashes this Robo-redo is a fatal lack of humour and anonymous CGI action that wastes ED 209 and never approaches the riotous mayhem Verhoeven joyfully threw at gobsmacked audiences 27 years ago.
Sayonara RoboCop (2014)!