It’s never easy trying to make a successful movie remake, but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from cranking them out. Director Jose Padhila takes on the 1987 classic “RoboCop,” which starred Peter Weller as a fresh-faced street cop gunned down on his first day of duty, only to be resurrected as a fearsome human-machine hybrid created to clean up the streets of Detroit.
In this update, Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is a “Dirty Harry” type police detective who messes with the wrong crime boss, Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow). When Vallon strikes back, leaving Murphy at death’s door, OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) finds his perfect guinea pig for a new type of law enforcement.
While this remake certainly benefits from the bells and whistles of CGI (that black suit is the business!), ultimately “RoboCop” fails to live up to its predecessor. Here are three reasons why this RoboCop 2.0 will never find a place in the sci-fi hall of fame:
1. Joel Kinnaman
While Kinnaman is undoubtedly easy on the eyes, his performance barely had a pulse. What made Weller’s RoboCop so compelling was his evolution from an idealistic police officer to bad ass crime fighter. His transition from man to machine was informed with specific body movements and vocal intonations, whereas Kinnaman’s interpretation remained flat throughout. The magic to “RoboCop” was the audience taking an emotional journey with Alex Murphy, as he painfully reconciled his humanity within his cybernetic body. Kinnaman unfortunately fails to take us to the promised land. I mean, if you can’t even deliver the classic line “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me” with any conviction, you’re simply not worthy of carrying on the “RoboCop” legacy.
2. The Villains
What was so delicious about the original “RoboCop” were the levels of douchery displayed by both the corporate “suits” and the lower level street “thugs.” The clash between older OCP exec Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) and his younger, opportunistic counterpart Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) made for some great scenery chewing. Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and his gang of not so merry men were absolutely ruthless, as witnessed by their use of Murphy for target practice. In this 2014 update, Michael Keaton brings a certain charisma as a capitalist magnate, but his villainry (as well as Antoine Vallon’s) is dialed down to almost zero, making his final confrontation against Robocop that much more anti-climactic.
3. That PG-13 Rating
What was brilliant about the the original ”RoboCop” was its depiction of a dystopian future that eerily mirrored today’s society. The graphic violence served two purposes; first to justify the drastic measures taken in building this modern-day techno-Frankenstein and to provide a an emotional catharsis to the audience when Murphy finally exacts his revenge. This sanitized update doesn’t give viewers a sense of urgency for the RoboCop program, but more a not so hidden agenda to promote (or debate) the U.S. use of drone strikes in the Middle East. While that’s definitely a debate worth having, “RoboCop” just isn’t smart enough to tackle such a controversial topic.