Robocop fought the law and I won a settlement for police brutality.
The rebooted RoboCop tries to do several things as a film, and achieves moderate success, in some aspects. As a whole the film misses far more marks than it hit, the marks it did hit make the film entertaining, on the most basic levels. The film is confused, bouncing from satire, to action, to drama with little linking the three, aside from massive plot holes. If you were to try to follow the narrative logically, you would be left trying to piece together the first 30 minutes of the film as the credits start to roll. To be fair, you could piece it together faster, if the heavy-handed narration didn’t get in the way.
Yes, this film used a narrator, cleverly disguised as a TV pundit ham fisting the storyline so no audience member could possibly miss the boat. The biggest problem, I don’t think the boat they were forcing the audience on, was the same boat the rest of the film was riding. The boat the film was riding was a sleek high performance speedboat with a lawn mower engine, and a fish-finder doubling as futuristic GPS guidance system. It looks fast, it looks exciting, but there is nothing under the hood and it leaves no wake. At best, this film is mildly entertaining for the nearly two, but feels like 4 hour runtime, but ultimately forgettable.
In 2028, OmniCorp, supplier of robotic drone technology to the US Military for use overseas, wants to sell their products to civilian law enforcement in the US. However, the Dreyfuss Act a law prohibiting the use of robotic drones on US soil prevents this. OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) asks scientist Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), to combine human and machine to create a machine the American Public will accept, in order to leverage the US Congress to repeal the Dreyfus Act.
Dr. Norton selects police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) for the RoboCop program after being critically injured by a car bomb, which was planted by Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow) with the help of a couple dirty cops. Alex Murphy’s new abilities are hampered by his human brain, and Rick Mattox (Jackie Earle Haley), OmniCorp’ s military tactician, insists he will never be as efficient as a fully mechanical robot. Under pressure by Raymond Sellers Dr. Norton tampers with the Alex’s brain, allowing the computer programing to override his natural decisions drastically increasing his efficiency. Just prior to his unveiling, while the police database is downloaded into his brain, Alex is overwhelmed and has a seizure. With no time to address the problem appropriately, Dr. Norton drastically alters Alex’s brain chemistry, lowering his dopamine levels until he is emotionally comatose.
RoboCop, as a crime-fighting machine is phenomenal, reducing crime up to 80%, and is a public relations success for OmniCorp. To keep the secret to this success Alex is kept away from his wife and son until Clara Murphy (Abbie Cornish) confronts her husband outside the police station. She tells him about his son David’s (John Paul Ruttan) growing problems stemming from the traumatic loss of his father. Alex Murphy begins overriding his programming and breaking protocol to solve his own murder.
There are obvious problems with the film. The primary problem is the method used to propel the narrative. The character of Patrick Novak (Samuel L. Jackson), host of The Novak Element, serves no real function outside driving the story as a narrator. It is a disservice to the talents of Samuel L. Jackson to place him in a role such as this. You could remove his role from the film, in its entirety, without damaging the story. The only thing that would do to the film, would be to remove the ham-fisted satire (I hope it was supposed to be satire) that is akin to someone shouting plot points that are fairly self-evident. I understand, as a storyteller, the need to make sure the story, as I see it, is told. There is, however, a limit, and that is when the intelligence of the audience is insulted. Having a movie forcefully narrated by Samuel L. Jackson might sound like good time, but it is unbelievably distracting. I resent the fact that I am forced to say I wish Samuel L. Jackson was not in this movie. I hope I never have to say that again, and I am very sorry to Mr. Jackson.
Aside from the malevolent narration, the film was fairly bland. The action sequences, which should have been exciting, and fun to watch, were anything but. Part of that may be due to the scaled back violence to meet the PG-13 rating, but I think that hobbled something that was already hamstrung. I can only liken it to watching a band of un-athletic teenagers play paintball. To top that off, the dialogue is also equally uninspiring. Except for the rare quip that usually fell flat after too long a setup, there were barely enough memorable lines to fill a 2 minute trailer.
There are two redeeming characters in this film, without these two the robo-house of cards would collapse under its own weight. The two veteran actors that essentially carry the entire film are Michael Keaton, and Gary Oldman, but that shouldn’t be surprising. Oldman delivered a layered and nuanced performance that could have made a pothole puddle appear as deep as the Atlantic. He formed a core around which the rest of the cast could ride throughout the film. I hate to think what this film would have been without him. Michael Keaton, aside from being a welcome sight, reminded me of an ambitious Bruce Wayne (for some reason) in his portrayal of CEO Raymond Sellars. He played the role with a faux nice guy nature that played well with his natural charisma. It was easy to believe he could ask anyone and everyone for deplorable things while continuing to act like your best friend.
Keaton’s and Oldman’s performances were fantastic, but they could not save the floundering robo-film from itself. RoboCop gets 5.5 out of 10. It is mostly an exercise in wasted potential.