Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Film Review: Robocop (2014)

Robocop (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...an incredibly inconsistent film with hit-or-miss humor, repetitive action, and ineffective drama."

Detroit policeman Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is injured in an explosion. Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton), CEO of OmniCorps, and Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) rebuild him as a human in a robot -- Robocop.

Robocop is a remake of a film with the same title. Unfortunately, this Robocop is suffering from an identity crisis. The story follows Murphy when he's rebuilt as Robocop. He initially struggles to cope with the idea, but finds himself stopping crime in no time. After some tinkering from the higher-ups, Murphy starts to struggle with the classic "am I man or machine?" dilemma. Meanwhile, Sellers attempts to repel the Dreyfus Act, which prevents him from placing his crime-stopping robots on American streets. It leads to a humorous but underwhelming ending.

Robocop doesn't know what it wants to be. It's a lost film with plenty of ideas and wonderful source material, but it doesn't know what it wants to be. Maybe it was the writing, maybe it was the direction, but Robocop is an inconsistent mishmash of ideas. One moments it wants to be a political satire, the next it wants to be a fun popcorn action movie, then it wants to be a family drama. This would've been okay, if it were executed properly -- it's not. Most of the humor falls flat, lacking in subtlety and wit. The political/media satire was decent the first time, then the film continues to pummel you with its O'Reilly Factor satire -- got old quick. The action was decent, but quickly became repetitive; there were only two, maybe three, action sequences I truly enjoyed. The "man vs. machine" family drama was mostly ineffective.

The story has a handful of other issues, too. The film overstayed its welcome. It had too much filler. The characters were odd - for lack of a better term. For one, Murphy seems more like a gangster than a cop this time around. The film tries to make him this witty badass, but he comes off as more of an unfunny douchebag. The antagonist in this film isn't really known until the end of the film. Not because of clever writing, but forgetful writing. It was almost as if the writers and producers got to the end and said, "Guys... We forgot to buildup the bad guy!" On that point, it says a lot when I liked the bad guy more than Murphy.

Joel Kinnaman is good as Robocop, mediocre as Murphy. As Murphy, Kinnaman severely lacks charisma to pull off the character. Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman were great. Despite limited screen time, Samuel L. Jackson injects some much needed energy into the film. I wasn't a fan of the black suit, but the special effects were mostly fantastic -- exactly what you'd expect from a blockbuster. Unfortunately, there aren't any practical effects like the original; we won't be watching Murphy get shot to bits or a melting man. I loved the use of iconic theme music, though. Director José Padilha's vision for Robocop was all over the place. He had a lot to work with, but he couldn't focus. This leaves us a film with an inconsistent atmosphere and tone, an ineffective and repetitive story, and an exhaustive experience.

Overall, Robocop is a mediocre film. It's an incredibly inconsistent film with hit-or-miss humor, repetitive action, and ineffective drama. If you've read my reviews, such as The Grudge or Shutter, you know I don't mind remakes -- in fact, I often welcome them with open arms. In this case, Robocop is a failure. It stands with the remake of Oldboy and Pulse when it comes to quality. If you're simply looking for something with plenty of action, this might be worth your time. Don't expect it to stand anywhere near the original, though.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood.

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