RoboCop - Blu-ray Review

 'Not just a poorly executed remake, but a comprehensively bad film all round'.

Despite the general negativity that punctuated the run-up to its release, I went into José Padilha’s RoboCop reboot with a relatively open and positive mind. With established names such as Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman and Samuel L. Jackson peppering the cast, Padilha’s film seemed to hold at least some potential to provide a worthwhile alternative take on Paul Verhoeven’s much-loved 1987 original. Unfortunately, 2014’s RoboCop is not just a poorly executed remake, but a comprehensively bad film all round.

On paper, the cast seems to be RoboCop’s strongest asset, but in actuality ends up as one of the film’s biggest disappointments. Keaton and Jackson both have their eyes solely on their bank balances, seeming almost entirely uninterested in the film they’re in; whilst Oldman crafts his character from the boring bits he left out of playing Jim Gordon in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Jennifer Ehle and Jay Baruchel swell the unimpressive ranks further as forgettable legal and marketing suits for OmniCorp, RoboCop's nefarious conglomerate drawn from strokes so broad and heavy-handed they may as well have come from a paint roller. Worst of all is Joel Kinnaman in the title role of Detective Alex Murphy, putting in a turn so flat and artificial its hard to decide whether he's more robotic before he dons the cybernetic suit than he is after.

The narrative is at best a mess, at worst non-existent, the film actually failing to tell a complete story over its bloated two hour duration. What we get instead is a collection of undercooked parts of stories, chewed up and vomited out into an unfocused and unsatisfying imbroglio. An offshoot of this is that there’s also no definitive antagonistic presence for the vast majority of the film. It’s a problem which Padilha eventually spots much too late on and then unsuccessfully attempts to remedy by throwing in a hackneyed and unconvincing hostage situation almost out of nowhere.

Padilha’s direction causes numerous problems elsewhere, with each action sequence a cacophonous collection of brainless gunfire that fails to impress. The director also struggles in crafting a believable setting for his film: RoboCop is meant to take place in a crime-saturated Detroit of the future, but in all honesty feels like it could be happening in any generic American city of today. Padilha’s directorial shortcomings are exacerbated by Joshua Zetumer’s clunky script, the writer seemingly attempting to fit in as many trite lines of dialogue and cheesy action sci-fi clichés as he can.

So many problems, and I’ve barely even mentioned RoboCop’s treatment of its source material. If there’s one thing to be said for Zetumer’s screenplay, it’s that it never attempts to be a straight retelling of the story from Verhoeven’s original. There are even some ideas here that, had they been developed considerably in the hands of a more skilled director, could have formed the basis of an intriguing new beginning for the franchise.

As it is, all Zetumer manages to do is make one pointless choice after another. The decision to change Murphy's partner Lewis from the female character of the 1987 version to a male (played by Michael K. Williams) in 2014 not only feels like a step backwards in terms of how women are represented in the newer film, but also seems have been made with the absence of any logic or reason, serving only to make the story feel even more mundane. Even the redesign of RoboCop's appearance makes no sense, feeling like the outcome of an insulting level of collective ignorance about the original version of the character. This is a film lacking in brain, in craft and in point; there is genuinely no reason to recommend 2014’s RoboCop as a film worthy of your attention, let alone as an alternative to Verhoeven’s sharp and uncompromising sci-fi classic.




RoboCop is released on UK Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 9th June 2014.



By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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