Geeks and fans love director Paul Verhoeven’s original 1987 version of RoboCop, a cult film full of violence and catchy one-liners which are topped only by the humorous black social commentary on American consumerism.
So there was much outrage when Hollywood announced a reboot of the classic – and it only grew with the revelation that this would be a more kiddy-friendly, sanitised affair.
As a fan of the original myself, I had to push aside my own cynicism when I went to see José Padilha’s new vision for everyone’s favourite cyborg cop. I was in the company of one of my oldest friends – a man who claims to be the world’s biggest RoboCop fan, owns three different versions of the film and knows every line. And how pleasantly surprised we were.
The story still features Detroit Detective Alex Murphy (played by Joel Kinnaman), who almost loses his life after a horrific explosion and is rebuilt by the “evil” multinational corporation OCP as the future of law enforcement. This, however, is a different RoboCop, with the satire toned down in favour of far more serious tone.
Padilha takes a much deeper look at the psyche of Murphy after his amazing transformation. The psychological trauma of Murphy’s new life and the effect on his wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) are played out at some length early on, and this does lead to some slight pacing issues – but once the action kicks in, it doesn’t let up. There are several great set pieces that live up to the original’s all-out action. And, yes, ED 209 gets his moment, too!
The director uses the charismatic talents of veteran actors Gary Oldman, Samuel L Jackson and Michael Keaton to great effect. Oldman as the genius scientist with a conscience is wonderful, Jackson brings his usual A game as the larger-than-life host of the US’s most popular current affairs show, and Keaton appears to enjoy himself as the ruthless owner of OCP.
Fans will recognise some nice homages to the original, too.
This isn’t the 1987 RoboCop. But the biggest compliment for the 2014 version came from my friend the diehard fan, who thought it was great. So did I. Thank you for your cooperation.
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