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Robocop (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 117 minutes.

Not for children.

My question, even before I saw this, is why? Why make a remake that is so remarkably similar to the original? Says director Josť Padilha about the 1987 movie, ďI think itís a brilliant film, an iconic classic.Ē Maybe it is. If so, why remake it? Were he a painter would he want to repaint the Mona Lisa or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Casablanca fits his description of a ďbrilliant film, an inconic classic,Ē certainly more than Robocop. Does he want to remake that with, maybe, George Clooney (I shudder at the thought) as Rick? Of course he might be able to replace Bogey (but not with Clooney), but heís going to run into trouble when he tries to replicate Peter Lorre, S.Z. Sakall, Claude Rains, and Sidney Greenstreet.

But back to Robocop; this is actually a pretty good movie with a pretty good script (Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner who wrote the original still get the basic credit with Joshua Zetumer also checking in for tweeking their work) and a fine cast, headed by Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Samuel L. Jackson, and Joel Kinnaman as Alex Murphy, the Detroit policeman whose body is destroyed with only his head, heart, and lungs remaining, who is morphed into a cyborg by Oldman. Kinnaman, a Swede, looks a lot like Peter Weller in the original, but maybe thatís because Robocopís armored body is almost an exact duplicate of the one quarter century ago.

The cast makes the remake worthwhile. Cornish is a terrific actress. Anybody who hasnít seen Somersault has missed a good film with an exceptionally brave performance by Cornish, given all the nudity. Keaton is one of the more underappreciated, underused talents in Hollywood. Iíve never seen him give a bad performance and heís just as good here as he ever has been, although his real forte is comedy. However, in a twist from the original, heís not nearly as outwardly evil as his character was then. Oldman takes a role that could have been forgettable and makes you look forward to his next appearance onscreen. Haley is a fine sociopath and Jackson appears as a convincing TV polemic.

As an aside, when Jackson appeared as a remote guest on KTLA promoting the movie, film reporter Sam Rubin mistook him for Laurence Fishburne and asked him about his Super Bowl ad in a clip that has gone viral. Jackson reacted brutally, playing the race card on poor Sam, who acted admirably in the face of an inconsiderate, scathing attack by Jackson. Rubin is one of the best, if not the best, interviewers among media reporters, and I know a good interviewer when I see one since I wrote a book on the subject. He didnít deserve the disrespect Jackson heaped on him.

This Robocop is the same story we saw in 1987 with a big corporation as the bad guy. Whatís amazing is that the special effects arenít really that much different than the special effects in the original, more than a quarter century ago, despite the quantum leap in technology.

While maybe they were making the point that love can transcend the physical and can survive without it, keeping Alexís wife in the picture until the end, something that the original did not do, was depressing. Her constant reappearances kept reminding the audience that there was no way they could ever get together for any kind of normal physical relationship. In the original, when Alex asks about his wife and child, his female partner simply says, ďShe thought you were dead and moved on with her life.Ē

Since it is the same movie, it can stand on its own as a pretty good entertainment. Now we have two Robocops that are basically carbon copies of one another, although this one is a little less violent and quite a bit blander. Take your pick.