Director: Jose Padhila (Elite Squad)
Screenplay: Joshua Zetumer , et al.
Cast: Joel Kinnaman (Lola Versus), Abbey Cornish (Seven Psychopaths)
Runtime: 118 min.
by John DeSando
“I fought the law and the law won.”
That song plays under the credits of RoboCop (2014), and it’s the best part of the film besides the appearance of Frank Sinatra. Otherwise, this latest iteration of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 classic is so full of thriller-super-hero tropes you’ll think you wrote the screenplay. No, you didn’t, because you might have done better at not repeating the clichés.
The story is best summarized by bad-boy OmniCorp president, Raymond Sellars, played with effective understatement by Michael Keaton: “Forget the machines. They want a product with a conscience. Something that knows what it feels like to be human. We gonna put a man inside a machine.”
Sellars creates a low-rent Iron Man; in no way does Alex Murphy's RoboCop (Joel Kinnamen) compare with Iron Man's (a memorable Robert Downey, Jr.) robust intellect and dramatic range.
As for the marital romance between Alex and his wife, Clara (Abbey Cornish) and the parental love for his child, David (Jean Paul Ruttan), it’s all by the book, ho hum. At one point wife and son become hostages—imagine that. Where are Peter Weller and Nancy Allen when you need them?
Worst of all, the film takes probably an hour to set up the creation of RoboCop, when the audience already knows something about it. More importantly, the aud needs to see Robocop doing his duty on the streets of Detroit, but he’s not on the beat. Nor does director Jose Padhila mine the rich material inherent in troubled Detroit. The film could have been set in Montreal for all the attention paid to Detroit’s ill fate in the past and the present.
On a more positive note, Gary Oldman’s conflicted scientist, Dennett Norton, lends sinister grace. His RoboCop Dr. Frankenstein has the right amount of ambivalence about his creation to make me watch his every reaction to the chaos he has created.
Samuel Jackson as the Bill-O’Reilly-conservative TV host, Pat Novak, unknowingly sounds the liberal criticism and theme of the film: “This is the future of American justice!” A question mark rather than an exclamation point could encapsulate the argument about drones of any kind: Do we want machines to make decisions?
This RoboFilm is concerned with shooting up everything as the genre dictates. Leave the nuances to Iron Man.
“What the hell did you do to me?” RoboCop
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com