Review by-Jarrett Leahy
Set in 2028, the streets of Detroit have become a glorified war-zone of crime and corrupt officials. Fervent media and conservative politicians hope that the country’s growing fear will speed up the institution of a controversial militarized robotics program headed by multinational corporation OmniCorp. However, America’s “robo-phobia” keeps their lucrative plans at bay. When a dedicated Detroit police officer, Alex Murphy, is critically injured on the job, OmniCorp sees this as their opportunity to use their robotics technology to save this new hero and create a more human-like robot in the hopes of swaying the American public to support their burgeoning business that has already been unveiled in many other parts of the world.
This latest reincarnation of RoboCop is yet another example of how the current movie industry lassos talented up and coming filmmakers, uses, abuses, and forces them to spawn one of their latest crap remakes. Brazilian director Jose Padilha made a name for himself on the international film scene with his action crime drama, Elite Squad, the 2008 Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear winner. Three years later he released an equally successful sequel, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, and officially became a filmmaker on the rise. Unfortunately, I fear that RoboCop is such a major misstep that Padilha has possibly flushed away all his career momentum in one fell swoop. While attempting to create an allegory for the dangers of using misguided and warped rhetoric to justify the mass stripping of civil liberties, Padilha embraced the most hackneyed and cliched action stereotypes to create a film that does nothing to honor or better this franchise’s previous efforts.
Because the title character is obviously a robotically enhanced humanoid, the main requirement for the actor playing the part was to simply offer their interpretation or version of the unemotional delivery our robotic friends are famously known for. Unfortunately, Joel Kinnaman, the unknown Swedish eye candy that was curiously cast to lead this superfluous remake, took that idea a little too far, giving a dismally wooden performance that had me questioning whether he was in fact trying to channel his inner Hayden Christensen. Even is vacant, expressionless stare, which seemed to be on constant display, felt like a painstakingly laborious task for our ineffectual hero. During this latest deluge of action franchise reboots, I’m all for giving fresh faces a chance to become the next superstars. But in the future, it would be great if the studio would make acting talent and the charisma to carry such a movie prerequisites in their casting process.
And that leads me to Ms. Cornish. After this latest in a long line of vapid attempts at acting, I have officially given up on Abbie Cornish. In fact, I should have known better, when with all of the actresses at their disposal, she was the one chosen for this film. Her monotone, emotional rag portrayal becomes increasingly tiresome, throwing even more fuel on my frustration with this tediously mindless creation. Other supporting stars of the film include Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Keaton. While we’ve long since known that Jackson will agree to do any movie that pays, and Keaton should just be happy that was cast in anything, an actor as gifted and respected as Gary Oldman should have taken one look at this tripe script and simply said NO. On top of playing the stereotypical good-hearted scientist whose work has been corrupted by big business greed, half of Oldman’s lines wound up being him simply screaming “Alex!” to the point that it became nails on a chalkboard. While I share many film fans’ frustrations that Oldman has never been officially recognized for his talents with an Academy Award, agreeing to do movies like this will certainly not sway the voters to his side.
Going into this viewing, I intentionally tried to keep my expectations low, hoping to find even an inkling of something worthy of praise. But RoboCop is so depressingly lackluster and brainless, I’m not sure director Jose Padilha is going to be able to recover from it. Joel Kinnaman and Abbie Cornish are the current leading candidates for the most comatose on-screen couple of 2014 and Gary Oldman should have simply known better. I guess the one thing I can give this latest version credit for, is helping me better appreciate the 1987 original.