Michael Keaton plays the CEO of OmniCorp; a corporation with designs installing their humanoid drones across the United States in the spirit of maintaining peace. And profit. And justice. But mainly profit. Despite having the media in his back pocket (personified by Samuel L Jackson’s Bill O’Reilly – sorry Pat Novak), Keaton is having trouble convincing America that machines with deadly weapons are really the best thing for policing its streets. When young detective, Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is horrifically disfigured after a car bomb, a plan is put into place to bring about the first hybrid of man and machine, or – to those of you paying attention at the back – RoboCop!
Whilst there are car chases and gunfights and all the fun things to keep you chomping on your popcorn, his interpretation of RoboCop feels more like the opening chapter to a story than a stand-alone film with its heavy expositon. The script seems to think we need to see every step towards Murphy’s transformation from emotional human being to steely eyed, unquestioning drone. So, we witness training montages with watchmen’s Jackie Earle Haley’s mean sunuvabitch drone controller and boardroom discussions with Gary Oldman’s compassionate medical team. It’s all stuff that could have been condescend to 20 minutes of the opening act.
The nihilism of the original has been jettisoned in favour of more emotion through Murphy’s family who, unlike in the original, are front and centre for the majority of the film. As such, we spend large gun-less sections of the film worrying about Murphy’s humanity and compassion. It’s a bold move, but it doesn’t entirely convince and, unfortunately, it all just feels superfluous to what people have paid to see, which is RoboCop robocopping.
When it was announced that Paul Verhoeven’s seminal and ultra-violent RoboCop was up for a reboot, eyebrows were raised so high, they could only be brought down by industrial machinery. But on the basis of what’s on show Jose Padilha’s reboot, there’s not that much on show that justifies the vitriol that was fired at it with angst cannons. But then it’s also not exactly winning us over.