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by Leonard Maltin
February 12, 2014 1:17 PM
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Photo by Kerry Hayes - Courtesy of Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

This being the now-traditional blah season for movies, it should come as no surprise that RoboCop is a cheerless PG-13 retread of the subversive R-rated 1987 hit. Dutch director Paul Verhoeven painted a bleak, ugly picture of the future in that film. The shiny new rendition, set in the year 2028, is much cleaner and somewhat less nihilistic than the original, but otherwise it’s business as usual. Swedish-born Joel Kinnaman, from television’s The Killing, plays a dedicated Detroit policeman whose body is shattered in an explosion plotted by a local crime lord. Hovering near death, he is resuscitated by a doctor (Gary Oldman) who is conducting high-tech experiments for a cutting-edge corporation run by Michael Keaton. Thus, he becomes the first robotic officer on the Detroit police force and, indeed, a force to reckon with.

Photo by Kerry Hayes - Courtesy of Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

The story, showing signs of wear, is framed by an obnoxious new device, in which Samuel L. Jackson plays a strident, opinionated television host who sets up the moral debate over using machines (or drones) in the field of law enforcement.

Jackson’s character is as thin and superficial as all the other principals, who line up as either cyphers or caricatures: Oldman as the once-principled doctor who’s willing to sell out, Keaton as the manipulative mogul, et al. Give Abbie Cornish credit for trying to breathe life into her one-note role as Kinnaman’s devoted wife. But give no points to freshman screenwriter Joshua Zetumer.

This marks Brazilian documentarian-turned action director José Padilha’s American debut, but it doesn’t reveal anything other than an ability to execute high-octane action scenes. For some audiences, that may be enough. I was hoping to care a bit more about the main character and his outcome. The finale is especially disappointing, with an expected rooftop showdown that fizzles and an energy-sapping coda featuring TV host Jackson.

The RoboCop concept still has life in it, but it will take a better film than this to fuel a new fan base. 



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  • Dimitris | March 4, 2014 12:10 AMReply

    Mr Maltin you got this review on point! This movie a failed attempted to something that should be left aloen because they are just killing the legacy of the original movie!

  • Glass Apple | February 14, 2014 2:21 PMReply

    From afar it looks like another attempt by Hollywood to corral the public into going in a direction that they don't really want: namely the militarization of the police which is a rather thorny subject with most people that I know these days. Far be it from Hollywood to reflect social mores, rather than direct them though.

  • Brian | February 13, 2014 3:15 AMReply

    Mr. Maltin, thank you for giving this film a negative review. I think the original Robocop is a good example of mainstream cinema that doesn't happen enough anymore, where a creative team collaborates to make something that they aren't sure will be successful and satisfying -- and ultimately is. "Brand Awareness" like this is ruining Hollywood.

  • Norm | February 12, 2014 7:00 PMReply

    Not hsrd to believe that they couldn't punch up the story line, Detroit, Really ?, but they obviously didn't and we have another half-baked remake. Kurtwood Smith's performance still sends shudders down many backbones, they should have brought him back...

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