Make no mistake: “RoboCop” is fun. Its 108 minutes of action-packed visual dynamite secure it a place among those light, mediocre adventure flicks usually reserved for mid-summer releases. Regrettably, its unfortunately generic nature ensures it doesn’t rise above that class.
The film, already a remake of the well-received 1987 original, follows law enforcement officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) in 2028 Detroit, who suffers a near-fatal injury in the line of duty. A weapons contracting corporation with dubious morals seizes upon Murphy’s misfortune as an opportunity to give a human face to its overseas line of military drones. The result is the titular RoboCop — a crime-fighting human-robot hybrid.
As in the original, the remake calls heavily upon archetypes that have only grown in triteness since 1987. Kinnaman plays Murphy with enough heart to seem a moral paragon, yet with just enough gruffness to be rough and tough around the edges. He butts heads against Michael Keaton’s Raymond Sellars, the slithery head of the contracting company, who — obviously — cares only about his profits. Gary Oldman rounds out the principals as the good doctor whose moral compass is tested through the plot.
Naturally, as in any good action picture, Samuel L. Jackson is thrown in just for kicks as a political talking head.
The cast act their parts well. Oldman particularly makes a strong effort, but no amount of acting can revive flat characters.
“RoboCop” calls in the flashy robotics of the “Iron Man” franchise, the big business imperialist critique of “Avatar” and even the ethical considerations of exploiting injured officers addressed in “Source Code.” The resulting amalgamation borrows the voices of others without ever developing one of its own — not even the bitingly satiric tone of the 1987 original. But who ever said a movie had to have a voice to be fun?
For viewers looking for a relatively mindless, “justice is served” romp, “RoboCop” is just fine. But those seeking original fare ought to hold out for something less derivative.
— Drew Goins
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