MRR Review: "RoboCop"

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

Rating: PG-13
Length: 118 minutes
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Directed by: José Padilha
Genre: Action / Crime / Sci-fi

The "Robocop" franchise is finally getting a reboot with the action-packed "Robocop" film that blends classic details with some fresh new ideas. Although the 1980s version is still wildly popular, the 2014 remake brings its own thematic elements and storyline to create an entirely new experience for fans. Detroit is run by corrupt executives and law enforcement officials in the year 2028, and a multinational company creates the first cyborg police officer as a way to convince the country that robotics and law enforcement can mix. The cyborg, fallen officer Alex Murphy, fights for justice, his family and his own humanity. Although the film has received mixed responses from dedicated fans, "Robocop" is undoubtedly an entertaining film with plenty to offer.

Multinational conglomerate OmniCorp, the leading producer of robotic technology, desires to allow drones to be used in the United States. CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) decides to make this a reality, teaming up with Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) to produce a being that is part human and part robot to serve in law enforcement. They find the perfect candidate, a police officer named Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) who had been seriously injured due to foul play. They receive permission from his wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) to perform the operation, which turns out to be a success. Murphy experiences an increase in strength and superb computing ability, but he finds it difficult to accept his new form.

Unbeknownst to Murphy, Dr. Norton alters his brain so that he does not realize he is fulfilling programs and not acting out of free will. After a mishap involving Dr. Norton, Murphy becomes machine-like in fulfilling his duty without emotion, and he is cut off from his wife and son. Clara struggles to get through to him, begging him to help their son who is suffering from nightmares of seeing Murphy when he was injured. These leads Murphy on a quest to find the criminal responsible for his injury and eventual transformation. Amidst an atmosphere of turmoil and changing political tides, Robocop begins to realize where real justice must be served as he struggles to find his humanity.

"Robocop" certainly has a lot going for it, and, in many ways, it lives up to the high expectations of fans. Brazilian director José Padilha, who is known for films like "Elite Squad" and "Elite Squad: The Enemy Within," crafts action sequences in a way that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. The film is well-paced, and use of the shaky camera filming style is used to its full advantage during action scenes. The special effects leave nothing to be desired, creating a thrilling, realistic feel that brings viewers into the world of "Robocop."

Although the visual effects are memorable, the actors truly bring the film together with solid performances. Joel Kinnaman shines in the lead role, playing an incredibly versatile character with ease. Kinnaman seamlessly transitions from an emotional human who loves his family to a blank, controlled enforcer of the law. Michael Keaton nearly steals the show with his spot-on performance of a corrupt, greedy CEO, and Gary Oldman is completely believable as he portrays a reserved scientist. The entire cast brings "Robocop" to life, offering heartfelt performances that entrance viewers.

Comparing the 2014 "Robocop" with the 1989 version is difficult because each film recreates the story of Robocop in its own way. The robotic suit that Murphy wears is arguably much more attractive, featuring a sleek black design. The older film contains a great deal of satire while the newer version falls short in this respect, but the newer film is more emotional and believable. The action sequences, with the help of great CGI effects, have greatly improved in the remake. Rather than replacing the original film, the 2014 remake addresses new issues more relevant to modern times.

Although this film is no doubt entertaining, it also has its fair share of shortcomings. First of all, the plot itself is somewhat weak with too many underdeveloped sub-plots. This is partially overshadowed by Padilha's great action sequences and strong performances by the lead actors, but it still takes away from the film's overall impact. Additionally, there is not much chemistry between Alex Murphy and Clara Murphy, despite the important part their relationship plays in the story.

"Robocop" may not be an instant classic, but it is a thoroughly entertaining film that provokes thought. Touching on themes like capitalism, corporate greed and the meaning of humanity, this film is more than just great action sequences. Fans of the franchise and new viewers alike are bound to have a good time watching this fast-paced film.

Rating: 3 out of 5