I was not aware that there was much interest at all in Robocop (2014), the remake of Paul Verhoeven’s iconic film from 1987. The session I attended though, an early morning one on opening day, was quite packed. That interest will soon pass though, as the film is pretty terrible and will generate nothing in the way of positive word of mouth.
The film surprisingly starts out uber-political with a pre-credits sequence set in Tehran showing the U.S. utilising its robot weaponry (the word drone is dropped) on random searches throughout the Iranian capital. The film is clearly decrying the use of drones in warfare and saying some very timely things. It also touches on the hypocrisy of American policy regarding drones, with the government of this near-future country refusing to allow robots to be used domestically. Whatever your thoughts on the political line that the film is pushing, this is probably the best sequence of the film, showing off some quite slick futuristic design, both on the audio and visual fronts.
With robots essentially outlawed at home, those in charge of pushing the tech see an opportunity with our man Robocop. The evil organisation that creates all of this robotic military hardware sees him as a great public relations opportunity. Putting a man (in this case a Detroit policeman badly injured by a bomb that was meant to kill him) inside a robotic suit will hopefully sway public opinion toward approving of robotic military and law enforcement hardware. Unfortunately the film really starts to unravel when action shifts back to the States. The acting is clunky, the storytelling the same and the early nice design barely shows its face again (a shootout in driving rain a rare exception). Actually the plot is close to non-existent. Man becomes Robocop. Loses his emotional connections. His military bosses turn out not to have his best interests at heart. Robocop finds his emotions again. They throw in a twist literally no one in the world will care about. Robocop wins. The poor darlings throw in some setup for a sequel that will never get made. That’s it. The interesting themes and political point of view is still there… but only sort of. Essentially you have to inject them into the film yourself, rather than the filmmakers actually running with those ideas as I wish they had of.
Really there is nothing too surprising throughout this whole film. Actually that’s not true, the main surprise is the calibre of cast that they managed to attract to it – Abby Cornish, Gary Oldman, Jackie Earle Haley and Michael Keaton. They are all perfectly fine, managing to neither stick out as terrible whilst putting in what appears to be the bare minimum of effort and passion. As the titular character, Joel Kinnaman, fares rather worse. He is terrible in the beginning when he is just plain old Alex Murphy, Detroit detective. Once he Robocops up he is somewhat more bearable but never reaches any heights. The only actor who does reach any heights is Samuel L. Jackson, who has a small role as Pat Novak, a hilarious Bill O’Reillyesque right wing newsman. The film starts with him riffing on Ron Burgundy and his role is one of the very few delights that the film contains.
After a promising start, this film gets bogged down and just turns silly, annoying and predictable. The engagement with political issues of the day might be refreshing (depending on your point of view) but it is doubtful that it will make this feel worth your while. Though if you are a Samuel L. Jackson fan, then this is probably worth grabbing on blu-ray down the line so you can just fast forward to his hilarious scenes.
Verdict: Schooner of Carlton Draught