Robocop 2014
Robocop steals Batman's suit and Tron's helmet before fighting against
Copyright Infringement notices and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Review Written by: Alex Sandell

Robocop is better than was expected out of a slick, PG-13 rated corporate monstrosity of a remake -- but just barely. For ten minutes or so, the movie has you fooled into believing that maybe they'll actually be able to pull the whole thing off. How, in 2014, can viewers (including your humble critic) still be so easily tricked?  

The opening to this film is fucking incredible. It makes a statement about U.S. military overreach that you'd usually expect to see from someone like Noam Chomsky or Jeremey Scahill -- not a 100 million dollar "blockbuster by the numbers" film by comitte. The movie opens with Samuel L. Jackson -- playing a Bill O'Reilly type -- showing us how well the citizens of Tehran have received the robotic overlords sent their way by a gigantic U.S. military contractor (Omnicorp). The Tehranis are portrayed as looking terrified during an obvious play on New York City's "Stop-and-Frisk" program; but still the U.S. media presents them as loving their gigantic mechanical "freedom fighters." As the Fox News' like pro-military media cheerleads and captures the "happy Tehranis" on camera, a few Tehranis take the initiative and decide they must die while the American media is recording, by blowing the hell out of a big robot. When they succeed in their mission, the feed is cut and Sam Jackson as O'Reilly Guy talks of how great it would be if we had the same robots guarding U.S. streets and asks what could be more important than the safety of Americans. In reality, Sam Jackson's O'Reilly guy is doing what the real life O'Reilly does on a regular basis -- trying to make more money for private military contractors by scaring Americans into trading their freedoms for a false sense of security -- the whole while making billions for Ominicorp. If the entire movie kept up the momentum of the opening 10 minutes and kept the topics as deep, current and controversial as they are at the start, it could have rivaled the original Robocop. It could have possibly bettered it — which would have been a rare achievement for a remake.

Sadly, after the opening, we enter the watered-down PG-13 realm we expected ever since the movie was announced. Being a PG-13 is a HUGE strike against the movie and it would have done better at the box office with an R rating (where the studios get their, “PG-13 performs better” mentality I don’t know — but certainly not anywhere reality based) and certainly would have reached loftier goals artistically. To its credit, Robocop 2014 handles the rating it was damned with better than most. Instead of seeing a bunch of people blown away with NO blood, we are shown gunfights in the dark — lit up only by the gunfire itself — or with night vision on or against robots that don’t bleed, which helps make the PG-13 rated film feel a little more brutal than the usual PG-13 Happy Meal hackjob. 

Should action and sci-fi movies have to settle? Anyone with any sense would say, "no." I watched the original a week ago in preparation for the remake and was, yet again, shocked by its extreme violence (the film originally received an "X" rating) and bold predictions of the near future. The movie dared go places that this one — restrained by its tepid PG-13 rating — couldn't even dare to consider approaching. And, ironically, the original's predictions of future Detroit way back in 1987 shows a more accurate Detroit than the one portrayed in the remake. A Detroit -- in the remake -- that looks more like Canada. Because, as with most movies these days, Canada's lofty tax breaks mean the billion dollar studios throw accuracy out the window and we see Canada as a stand in for just about every major U.S. city in just about every "Hollywood" movie, including Robocop 2014's crisp, clean and shiney looking "Detroit". Hey! MGM and Columbia! Detroit could use the money! If you set your movie in that city, film your movie in that city!

Poor Joel Kinnaman -- he became known as Detective Holder on The Killing, a show set in Seattle that was filmed in Canada. And now he makes his major film debut in Robocop, a movie set in Detroit that was filmed in Canada. He's a Swede and at this point probably has the impression that every city in the U.S. is super clean, boring and located in Canada. That's gotta confuse a guy. Which may explain his performance in Robocop, which is super clean, boring and ... well ... Canadian. The rest of the cast doesn't fare much better. Gary Oldman, playing a sort of Dr. Frankenstein, looks and acts like an elderly woman.  Abbie Cornish, as Robocop's wife, essentially plays a concerned Barbie Doll. Jackie Earle Haley tries to pull off all sorts of nasty as an evil thug, but the only memorable thing about his perfomance is he's the one granted the delivery of the infamous, "I'd buy THAT for a dollar" line from the original film (albeit in slightly varied form). It's fun seeing Samuel L. Jackson ham shit up, but seeing Samuel L. Jackson hamming shit up is becoming par for the course -- no matter the film, he seems to think he's in a 70's grindhouse picture. One must wonder if he even remembers how to actually give a performance, rather than create yet another charicture. Michael Keaton as Ominicorp's CEO is the only one who puts in an interesting performance. Maybe that's just because he's pissed Robocop stole his Batman suit. 

Speaking of Batman, another HUGE setback for the film was the "modern" Dark Knight type color correction. You know the kind? Where everything looks sort of orange, chrome and muted? Like color film has just been invented and is yet to be perfected? It sort of worked in Dark Knight. That shouldn’t have to mean it will work in every sci-fi or action film made since Dark Knight — to the contrary, actually (seriously — don’t the money men pay attention?). This muted color timing really brought the movie down, just like it has brought down nearly all modern action movies (compare the box office of Robocop to the hyper-saturated Lego Movie). Thanks to everything feeling so cold due to the horribly cold color correction, you never really feel much emotional connection toward the characters. 

Overall Robocop was better than I expected it to be, but I didn't expect it to be much more than crap. It's worse than the original in every possible way excluding its excellent opening minutes. I feel that most of what was wrong with the movie could have easily been fixed if the suits controlling the purse strings would get rid of their magical thinking about what does and doesn’t help a film at the box office. If they want the magic solution to making a hit movie I'll give it to them for free: Make the fucking movie good. The big bucks will follow.

57 out of 100

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©2014 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved]. Copy this without my permission and I'll send the original Robocop after you. The one who shoots people in the genitals without a second thought.