Synopsis: In 2028 Detroit, when Alex Murphy – a loving husband, father and good cop – is critically injured in the line of duty, the multinational conglomerate OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer.
In Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 original Robocop, the Detroit in which it was set was influenced by the crumbling social order gripping the city at the time as America found itself on the precipice of a new financial depression. The future in which it existed though was ultimately a distant and hard to imagine dystopic one. The technology was the stuff of science fiction and acted as a warning against the short sighted fantasy of removing empathy from the judicial system.
As a director familiar with the subject of inner city policing in dangerous places (his breakthrough film was 2008 Brazilian language Elite Squad about policing in Rio) Jose Padhila was a natural fit to bring the much beloved franchise into 2014. After all we are in much the same position we were 27 years ago and Detroit is reeling now more than ever from the collapse of it’s mono-industry economic model. The fact is that despite being supposedly set 14 years in the future this feels a far more realistic prospect, with the technology proposed feeling only a couple of steps away from where we already are. After all, what is a robotic cop but another version of a drone to some degree?
It’s the familiar origin story; Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnerman), a clean cop in a dirty city getting very nearly bumped off by a powerful criminal who doesn’t like how close Murphy is getting to tearing down his organisation. He’s not dead but, well, he’s not in great shape lets put it that way. At the same time Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) the shady head of the equally shady Omni-Corp, is trying to get his military robosoldiers introduced into the US police family. Sensing a chance to circumvent Congressional legislation that forbids non-human law enforcement he tasks his chief scientist Dr Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) to make Murphy his goldent ticket hybrid.
While it all feels very shiny and relevant and up to date there is very little in this reboot that adds anything new or exciting to Verhoeven’s classic sci-fi yarn. Kinnaman is a good fit for the exceptionally mono-emotional Murphy but he feels widly out acted by Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton who are both on great form given their most likely being in it for the bumper pay day. There are a couple of excellent set pieces and despite it’s close to 2 hour running time it breezes along. For fans of the original Padhila pays his respects by way of a couple of very on the nose jokes. But there is little in the way of tension as it bundles along to it’s inevitable climax and unfortunately there is not enough raw originality to compensate.
Conclusion: A nice attempt, and in the context of some of the other rehashes of 80’s sci-fi classics lately, it fares pretty well. Unfortunately it’s not enough to justify the need to reboot the franchise. It will undoutbtedly lead to a second installment though.
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abby Cornish