This review of the 2014 remake of Robocop is based on making no comparisons between it and the excellent 1987 original, directed by Paul Verhoeven. If comparisons were to be made, the rating would be lowered from a three to a two.
Set in 2028, the remake begins by showing how the rest of the world is using robots and drones to enforce the law. No police officers are at risk. Reporters from the television program “The Novak Factor”, an excellent parody of Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News are touting the equipment as the host of the show “Pat Novak” (Jackson) is trying to assist the CEO of Omnicorp. That CEO, “Raymond Sellars” (Keaton) is working to get Congress to overturn a law that prevents the use of the robotic technology inside the U.S., as it represents a vast, untapped market for his company’s products.
In Detroit, police officer “Alex Murphy” (Kinnaman) is working to build a case against a crime lord named “Antoine Vallon” (Garrow). On orders from Vallon, a bomb is placed on Murphy’s car and when it explodes he is nearly killed. This leads to him becoming the test subject in an experiment conceived by Omnicorp scientist “Dr. Dennett Norton” (Oldman) that would combine man and robot, as a selling point to the American public.
At first the experiment seems doomed to fail as “Robocop” is not able to perform at the same level as the actual robots on which he is patterned. Tactical consultant “Rick Mattox” (Haley) is convinced these difficulties can’t be overcome. But Dr. Norton alters the mind of Officer Murphy so that he only thinks he is in control, in actuality, the machinery controls his reactions. This results in a vast improvement in performance. Now as Robocop is being used to sell the idea of robot cops to the people of the U.S., he himself sets out to solve the attempt on his life, and to uncover the corrupt police officers who were assisting Vallon.
The same moral questions are being examined here, but this is definitely a different movie. The special effects, the action sequences and the general appearance of the film all benefit from advances in technology over the past 27 years. The film’s pacing ebbs and flows at time but it never reaches any moments of full “pause” in plot progress. Michael Keaton is a very talented actor but that mischievous twinkle in his eyes that made him so good in films like Mister Mom hampers his ability to portray a sinister CEO. Gary Oldman would probably be great standing still and saying nothing and he stands out among this cast, as does the lovely Abbie Cornish. Director Padiha, whose Elite Squad won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, can be proud of his effort here.