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Having not fully healed from the burns leveled by Spike Leeís sacrilege of the amazing Oldboy, hereís yet another example of pointless Hollywood cannibalisation with a studio opting to remake a perfectly good recent film with something dumber and worse.

In the pastel-coloured 1980s, a very strange science-fiction flick emerged with a deceptively simple premise: In the dystopic future of 2014, the world is cleanly divided into the haves and have-nots.  Everything has been privatised, even the local police force.  Crime is rampant and thereís money to be made in security.  OmniCorp (or OCP), the conglomerate that seems to own all of Detroit, has attempted to create unmanned crime fighters, but the robotsí very lack of humanity and judgment renders them only good as mass-murdering menaces.  One of the rare true good guys, police officer Alex Murphy is called to go above and beyond his crime fighting service even past death.  After his attempt to crack a huge crime ring goes catastrophically wrong, whatís left of his brutalised organic matter is poured into a robotic suit and Murphy once again takes to the streets to stop crime and eventually solve his own murder.

1987ís RoboCop bears pretty much the same plot as this new remake.  However, outside of the general idea of a dead cop being brought back to life as a fancy tin can with big business holding his wind-up key; thereís precious little similarity between original director Paul Verhoevenís sly, social comment and this lobotomised shell of a remake.  In Verhoevenís hands, RoboCop became a gleefully gory, perverse, darkly comic, searing indictment of the ills of the Reagan era, when Ďtrickle-downí economics threatened the middle class and no one in power cared if the poor collectively jumped off a cliff.  During an eight-year orgy of consumerism, the rights of workers and common folk decreased, and despite the rich getting richer, the worldís economy suffered.  This version is as dumb and lowest common denominator as one can get, broaching nothing of any depth.  Everything lies at the surface with no thought, insight, wit or cleverness to be found. 

Gone is the envelope-pushing gore that simultaneously shocked, thrilled and made western audiences look at their reception of cinematic violence.  The best we have is a witless, obligatory-feeling scene of whatís left of Murphy taken out of the metal suit, which looks gross and like obvious, badly-rendered CGI.  Gone was the analogy of allowing the wealthiest to take away the rights and security of the people by making it a commodity.  Watered down to invisibility was the simplest homily of the heart and will of a man overcoming the tide of technology, even when it was keeping him alive.  My feeling was that despite the originalís box-office and critical success, this RoboCop was meant to bring in a broader, younger audience and therefore must be weaker and stupider.

The thing is completely charmless.  Even its stellar supporting cast, including Gary Oldman as RoboCopís creator, Jackie Earle Haley as a gun-loving, RoboCop-hating military trainer, Michael K. Williams (thankfully) replacing Nancy Allen as Murphyís partner and Michael Keaton doing the most as the tycoon who foots RoboCopís bill, cannot infuse a single blip into this lifeless, flatlined exercise. 

This RoboCop is cheaper, chintzier, amateurish and downright boring.  There are no great action set pieces and those shootouts that exist are filmed in seizure-inducing shakycam for no reason at all.  There is no bite to the script and it reads like the worldís dullest comic book.  Then we have our hero, played by the terrifically forgettable Joel Kinnaman, who has neither the chops nor the cheekbones to replace Peter Weller in his standout role.  Not that having Wellerís sculpted, glacial features would matter much in the few moments when Kinnamanís Murphy does actually have the helmet on, as it covers about ninety-nine percent of his face.  Still, why they chose such an uninteresting, unappealing actor I have no idea.  He hasnít the least amount of nuance to try to uplift some of the awkwardly-placed one liners - including those uncleverly nicked directly from the 1987 film.  Heís not compelling either in or out of the metal suit.  Which brings us to the big signifier as to why this should never have been made. 

How on earth is someone going to remake RoboCop if they canít even get the suit right?

The thing looked like factory-moulded plastic.  Iíve seen more impressive metalwork done in cosplay at comic book conventions.  It had none of the first versionís cool, disconnected hydraulic movement and never quite gave the true feeling of it being the body of a robot, including those limitations.  In 1987, RoboCop moved slowly, and that was because the suit looked and registered as if it weighed a ton.  That factor gave intensity to the movements and created fear for the character because he was so limited.  There was also a mechanised smoothness to the movements despite the cumbersome suit (This might have been a fault of Kinnamanís or inept, thoughtless direction by Josť Padilha).  This RoboCop can inexplicably leap tall buildings in a single bound.  Itís like the difference between fast zombies and slow ones, and as with the living dead, in RoboCop, Iíll take the slow guy every time.  The poor decision to paint the metal black only makes it even flatter and more nondescript.  Rob Bottin, come back, we miss you!

Most of the time when we see the rebuilt Murphy, itís with the visor off and the character is always in a headpiece that make him look like heís about to go play rugby.  Padilha also chooses to have Murphy recall his past normal life immediately, which takes the tension of its discovery out of the picture.  Heís doped into acquiescence by the scientists and simply must wait for the drug to wear off before he remembers who he was, his family and his murder.  Thereís none of the cool, distaff line deliveries or the dry, unintentional humour that showed how the programming had originally taken Murphy over.  This guy is a quivering mess; thereís no stoic hero, no coolness.  It just feels like a regular cop movie where the betrayed officer gets revenge and itís not even a good version of that.  The Robo part of RoboCop is pretty much neither here nor there, and if thatís not working, nothing else will.  And it doesnít.

Itís been a while since I've wanted to throw a shoe at a movie screen, and itís been never since Iíve wanted to hug Paul Verhoeven.  Damn you, RoboCop remake for making me wish for both occurrences.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

Feb 14th, 2014

 

 

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