The 1987 Robocop is not quite a classic, but it’s a movie I love for many reasons: its story, its gritty violence, its depiction of corporate greed and, especially, its sense of humor. The new Robocop (set in 2028) provides appropriate updates to certain elements of the original but doesn’t have the same impact as the 27-years-ago version.
Despite Robocop 2014’s high level of violence, it gets a PG-13. The ’87 Robocop was an R, thanks to language and a bit of skin (along with the violence).
Three things I really liked about the new Robocop: (1) Gary Oldman’s performance as Norton, a robotics engineer who wavers between his commitment to making a marketable product and his commitment to doing what’s right. (2) Samuel L. Jackson’s right wing TV show, which provides bookends for the movie. (3) The challenge Robocop faces versus a variety of robots, a glorious sequence resembling a rapid-fire first-person-shooter video game.
Samuel L. Jackson as a Fox News Channel personality? Pat Novak (Jackson) is a conservative TV host who is an advocate for security robots made by Omnicorp. He accuses Americans of having “robophobia.” In the movie’s opening, we see a live TV shot from Teheran where these machines protect US forces and a lady TV reporter. (Interesting prediction: that we’ll have ground forces in Iran in 14 years.)
As in the original, Robocop is Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), an injured Detroit cop who is made into a robotic, computer-aided crime fighter. Kinnaman lacks the gravitas that Peter Weller brought to the first Robocop. He’s 34 years old, but has a baby face.
The bad guy in this film (other than the dirty cops who are abetting a weapons dealer) is Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), head of Omnicorp. He’s in a political battle, opposing a federal law against robotic crime-fighters. Robocop is seen as the compromise because he is a human (with feelings), who also has the skills of a robot. Keaton brings an evil sneer to this character, a darker role for him. Other notable cast members include Jackie Earle Haley, Jennifer Ehle, Abie Cornish and Jay Baruchel.
The 2014 Robocop is not groundbreaking. But if you’re looking for a decent action film that predicts a high tech future, showcases plenty of violent gunplay and has a sense of humor, Robocop satisfies.