In 1987, “RoboCop,” starring Peter Weller as the titular hero, was more than just your average B-movie. Director Paul Verhoeven (“Total Recall,” 1990) put his special touch of violence and social satire, and made a movie that rose above its simple story and characters. Now, “RoboCop” has been given a new spin, with a story that pays proper tribute to the beloved original and manages to be fresh and new on its own.
Set in 2028 Detroit, Joel Kinnaman (“The Killing”) dons the robotic armor and plays police officer Alex Murphy. When Murphy – a loving husband and father – is critically injured in the line of duty, OmniCorp CEO, Raymond Sellars (a devilishly good Michael Keaton), sees an opportunity to create a robotic cop with a human conscience after an attempt to mass-produce mechanized law enforcement goes astray.
It is too few and far between that Hollywood produces a solid rebooted franchise. More often than not re-imaginings become carbon copies of the original with no sense of real purpose, or they steer so far off in the wrong direction that they wind up getting lost in oblivion, such as 2010’s “The Nightmare on Elm Street,” a repulsive throwback to Robert Englund and Johnny Depp’s original 1984 slasher flick.
Luckily, Hollywood newbie , director José Padilha (“Elite Squad,” 2007), makes this retooled “RoboCop” cool and accessible to non-fans while also respecting the source material. While it may not have the original’s grittiness, wit and sharp social satire, it is certain to make “RoboCop” relevant and popular again. It takes a whole new audience to the streets of Detroit, thereby granting a new lease on life for Weller’s decades-old creation.
Filling in the heavy metal boots of Weller is Kinnaman, who pulls off a difficult job of making audiences care for a guy who is mostly made of hardware and plates. But what really makes his RoboCop stand out is the emotion that he brings to the character. For someone who is supposed to be serious and all about his job, Kinnaman gives the iconic role a human touch. Even his voice, compared to the original, feels organic. This addition makes it easier for audiences to sympathize with RoboCop and ride along through his sufferings and emotional spirals.
In one remarkable and poignant scene, filmgoers get to see what Murphy looks like without all his mechanical limbs, as displayed by Dr. Dennett Norton (a moving Gary Oldman), the scientist who built RoboCop for OmniCorp. Murphy’s sense of bewilderment and Norton’s comprehension may produce a few tears among theater occupants. What follows is more affecting scenes, as the audience begins to understand Murphy’s turmoil.
But the movie doesn’t come without all its stunning visuals and scenes of action. Audiences will get a kick out of the training sequences and grand finale. It will hold your attention until the end credits roll.
RoboCop in stores on Tuesday, June 3.
Review by Preston Barta