Director: José Padilha
Studio: Strike Entertainment
Stars: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson
This rejiggering of the superviolent, campy, enjoyable 27-year-old Paul Verhoeven-directed sci-fi actioner RoboCop messes around with elements of the original, to lesser or greater effectiveness.
As 100-million-dollar movies go, it’s not a bad one by any means, but it’s too bad its makers didn’t bring along the satiric barbs that gave the original such a kick. In this tamer, less visceral and focused go-around, directed by José Padilha from a screenplay by Joshua Zetumer (based on the 1987 version by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner), we’re in 2028 and a power-mad CEO (Michael Keaton) of a robot technology firm and a surgeon (Gary Oldman) transform a dying cop (Joel Kinnaman) into a computerized killing machine. Glad to have him “back” in any form—even if he’s mostly computer codes and a kick-ass body suit—are not only his creators but also his loving wife (Abbie Cornish), former partner (Michael K. Williams) and trainer (Jackie Earle Haley). For a Glenn Beck-ish TV bloviator (Samuel L. Jackson, rocking one hell of a wig), he’s just another straw dog he can use to scare his gullible audience. And then there’s the “robo guy” himself, stuck in a bizarre, no-win situation but hell-bent on tracking and punishing whoever did this to him.
The movie may sport especially good work from Kinnaman, Keaton, Jackson and Haley and it definitely looks big, shiny and fantastic. But you leave the theater with a neither-here-nor-there sensation because it’s just not anything enough to grab you by the shorthairs.