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“RoboCop” [2014] – Early Review (POSITIVE)

February 11, 2014

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 7.04.51 PMIt seems like the never ending reboots and remakes continue to thrive in Hollywood; it’s a quick way to make a buck, and put a bunch of pimply ass nerds in the movie theatre seats. So, the next 80’s remake for Hollywood to tarnish is none other than Paul Verhoeven’s “RoboCop”. The announcement infuriated many fans, and it’s quite natural for there to be such a negative reaction from the get-go, hell I was plum mad about the news of an “Evil Dead” reboot, turns out it ended up on my end of the year best of 2013 list.

So, what’s the recipe to make an above decent remake/reboot? The obvious, it cannot be a shot-for-shot remake of the same fucking story, with just different actors this time around. Clearly what made movies like Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” or Fede Alvarez’s “Evil Dead” work so well was the fact that they take an original idea and expand on it. For better or worse, the expanding part can make or break the remake. Take a look at another Verhoeven remake, “Total Recall”. It’s biggest problem, it took itself way to seriously, and followed routes of generic sci-fi action pics.

Now, in regards to the “Total Recall” remake problems, much could be said about the same thing in José Padilha’s “RoboCop” film. However, what Padhila accomplishes is something “Total Recall” couldn’t achieve to it’s full potential…it told an interesting story. The heavy political overtones about the war on terror vs. the war on crime is a fascinating juxtaposition, one I think the movie could easily expand on in a sequel (yeah, it’ll get a sequel). The theme of freewill is still present in this version; however, we’re faced with a much different Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) in this film.

Promoted to detective this time around, Alex Murphy has begun a one-man war against the scum of Detroit. Illegal guns are being passed around like hot cakes, the police prescient won’t do a damn thing about it, and the fact that Alex & his partner Det. Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams) are the only remaining honest cops left, doesn’t fair out their odds. After an attempt on Murphy’s life leaves his body completely obliterated, Alex is given a second chance thanks to the OmniCorp group, run by a stern CEO, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), who has bigger plans, besides putting a man inside a machine.

The film depicts a future, not so far off, where the American people fear the simple though of robots walking around as ‘protectors’. And why shouldn’t they be? A robot has no emotion, and no feeling for remorse. We live in a world where we fear the government itself, taking technological liberties that have us question the ethics of right and wrong. “RoboCop” does bring up these ideas as more food for thought, rather than delving deeper into the actual topic. The one problem the film has, and take this for what it’s worth (haters), is that it brings up all these fascinating ideas, and only tackles them bit by bit. The Dr. Frankenstein-side of this film is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the entire film. Focusing on Gary Oldman’s Dr. Dennett Norton, the man responsible for Murphy’s grand transformation, and holds the button of taking away his freewill to think for himself. It’s a complicated dilemma and again, it brings up some rather dark ideas about the ethics of right and wrong.

Another element that’s still intact is the use of well-placed satire. No, it’s not tongue and cheek satire like the original, but it’s something mature enough for the overall tone. The scenes featuring Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Pat Novak, host of the Bill O’Reilly-like show, “The Novak Element”, will definitely bring many fans together in a chuckle. The exploitation of the news, conforming the non-conformists to believe in a false…let’s say profit (not biblical profit, but item) is something I think the original severely lacked in.

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 7.04.41 PMAside from its minor issues in the development of its themes/ideas, the rebooted “RoboCop” film is probably one of the biggest surprise of the year, thus far. It certainly turned out a lot better than how it was coming off just from the trailers alone. The previews make out to be another mindless remake that hardcore fans won’t have any interest in seeing. It’s far from that, I think the marketing of this film wasn’t handled properly, and the only thing this movie has going for it is the general good word of mouth it should generate.

It’s not trying to be Paul Verhoeven’s “RoboCop”, nor should it, there are a few occasionally winks for die-hard fans, a famous line here, a using of the original Basil Poledouris score there, but overall, this is a movie that completely does its own [original] thing, and I have to give it major props for proving me wrong, when all I was anticipating was another generic remake. Quickly, on the topic of the PG-13 rating, the same PG-13 rating leaving fans exclaiming, ‘Why wasn’t it R rated!??!’, I think once you see this film, you yourself will be questioning it’s given PG-13 rating; for a PG-13 film, its pretty violent. Keep in mind, this is also a José Padilha film, the same director behind the hyper-violent “Elite Squad”.

GRADE: B

Special Thanks to Sergio Enamorando for attending the screening and sharing his input.

Aaron Shore, is a contributing blogger for the film sites of Hudak on Hollywood & Midnight Reviews.

You can follow Aaron on Twitter @DoubleAAProd

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