Cert: 12A / 118 mins / Dir. José Padilha
Like officer Alex Murphy, the initially challenging part of all this is trying to disengage your brain from what went before, and get on with the job at hand; to wit, enjoying an action movie in which an emotionally repressed cyborg shoots the shit out of some bad guys. And how. This is quite a 'hard' 12A, in that lots of people get shot, but mostly at some distance and there's very little in the way of claret; that said, it's really not for the younger ones. I only bring it up because the original is still rated 18 by the BBFC, and although times change, this reboot isn't too far behind in terms of tone and content (although little-to-no swearing, interestingly). In short, if your local cinema ran both films back-to-back, they'd instantly be cutting out the demographic that the new version is aimed at. How's that for moving with the times?
But what you really want to know is, is it any good? Well, yes. Yes it is. If only for the reason that it never tries to be anything more than A Robocop Movie. This telling of the tale still takes potshots at the right and left-wing branches of government and media, but at its core it really just wants to be a dumb action flick; and in this, it succeeds. Sam Jackson completely owns his scenes as an opinionated television news-commentator, and Michael Keaton is having the time of his life as publicity-conscious CEO of OmniCorp, the pleasant conglomerate set to sell robot police and pacification forces to the US government once a plot-centric bill is repealed in congress.
But what you really want to know is, is Joel Kinnaman any good as Robert Coppington™? Well, he makes a reasonable contribution, yes. His Robocop is good, but his Alex Murphy is a little patchy, although he's never substandard; I'm just not sure he's right for the part. The same goes for Abbie Cornish who plays his wife, Clara Coppington™. She's okay, but the role is so sketchily written that anyone could have been okay in it, and I wonder if she was the best choice. But the segment of the film based around their relationship, and how they're each coping with Alex being 90% metal, is largely glossed over because it's more fun when he's Shooting At Things.
But what you really want to know is, is ED-209 in it? FUCK, YES! THROUGHOUT! He/it/they don't have as pivotal a role this time round, but there's a clear fondness there for the bipedal death dispenser, and the new version looks every bit as badass as its predecessor. We also get EM-208, a humanoid law-enforcement robot, which is essentially a person shaped version of 209. They're used heavily in one shootout sequence, then sparingly for the rest of the movie.
So, there's intrigue, suspicion, corruption, politics and robots firing massive guns. Why reboot? Well, while the story is clearly structured around the original, and the tone remains the same, it's varied enough to be its own film (albeit a formulaic actioner), and it's a great way to revitalise the series for a new audience. Opinions will vary (as they always, and should, do), but I thoroughly enjoyed Robocop. Then again, I enjoyed the last Verhoeven Rebranding, too.
There are plenty of references and nods to the 1987 film without it becoming overly reliant on nostalgia, and all the time, it feels like Robocop. Although hold onto that feeling, because it won't leave you with a lot...
While I appreciate that rebooting the franchise might be anathema to some, I don't think we should get too precious about a Paul Verhoeven film which spawned two sequels and an animated spin-off. As a social and political satire, Robocop is a bit of a blunt instrument, but for all-out empty-headed entertainment, you won't go too far wrong here.
It's also good to see Batman and Commissioner Gordon reunited, even if they are butting heads for most of the film. Luckily, Nick Fury's on hand, and in this movie, he's positively livid.
Yes, although not a lot else.
If you like 'em big and loud, this is the cinema-trip for you.
I didn't hear one.
The things that you could, and indeed would, buy for a dollar in 1987 seem a world apart from those which you'd be able to purchase for the same amount of money now. Discuss.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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