Remakes are all the rage.
Hollywood loves to hedge its bets by retooling old tales that have a preordained audience. If the tale involves science fiction, so much the better; there are all kinds of new toys for directors to play with these days. Sometimes the results are winners (think "War of the Worlds"), and sometimes they are losers (think "Rollerball").
"Robocop" falls somewhere in between.
Joshua Zetumer wrote the screenplay, and while he took the concept from the original, he took little else. The storyline is updated to fit the times with enough current political statements to keep any good liberal happy. Overall, the narrative hits all the right notes for an action film aspiring to have a message with a few awkward moments that I'm sure Zetumer would like to have another shot at.
"Robocop" is director José Padilha's first big budget Hollywood production, having previously directed less than a handful of films in his native Brazil. Padilha displays an overall wit that keeps the movie fun when it could get bogged down but then also overuses some techniques that come across like a recent film school graduate showing off. One example is his use of hand-held cameras during action scenes which are way too abrupt and don't contrast well with the rest of the film. The effect is more dizzying than thrilling.
The editors for the film, Daniel Rezende and Peter McNulty, could have put the movie together in a more seamless fashion. Editing isn't something typically even considered while watching a film, and that's the way it should be. Some of the abrupt cuts and shifting perspectives in "Robocop" may have been an artistic choice but they were not necessarily a good one.
Joel Kinnaman, from Netflix's "The Killing," is cast as the title character. Putting a $130 million production in the hands of a little-known television actor was a risky move, but Kinnaman fits the role well. The actor has a stoic countenance and delivery that is very "Robocop" but also is able to show emotion when called for using only his face because well, that's about all he has to work with.
Samuel Jackson does a turn as the host of "The Novak Report," a television show with a political agenda. Jackson, in a hairstyle robbed from the late James Brown, is a real hoot in the role and chews up the scenery when he's on screen. He even managed to sneak in his favorite "m" word although it was censored in a nod to the film's PG-13 rating.
Gary Oldman always brings integrity to every role he's cast in; the pro never phones one in. This is true for his performance as a conflicted doctor with shifting morals. The award-winning actor brings some nice dramatic touches to the film as he flirts with the dark side.
Speaking of the dark side, mention has to be made about one the film's gadgets, which bears a striking resemblance to the Imperial Walkers from "Star Wars." The designer must be a big fan of the classic series.
Michael Keaton is adequately evil as the head of the corporation stirring up all the ruckus. There wasn't much depth to the character, however, and Keaton never really commits to the part. Playing evil is so much fun, and the actor missed an opportunity here.
Detroit gets a bad rap in this reboot just as it did in the original. Poor Detroit.
"Robocop" is a fun action movie with all the required effects and thrills of its genre. There are some laughs and a few tears and enough relevancy to be kind of smart. To expect anything more is to court disappointment.