RoboCop (Rated PG-13, 117 minutes)
The one good thing about the RoboCop remake is that I went in with extremely low expectations and my expectations were adequately satisfied. However, this does not mean it is a good movie; in fact, RoboCop is a muddled mess with a few bright spots.
Well many know that this is a remake of the 1987 classic; however, the new film has distinct changes from the original. While the remake follows the basic template, the RoboCop character is given emotions and a present family. This departure is a positive, however, the execution of this idea is poor. But still, one must respect the filmmaker for trying something different.
Speaking of the director, José Padhilla did a decent job with what he was given. I have always been a fan of Padhilla’s Brazilian films: Elite Squad, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, and Bus 174. He always had a visual flair that worked well with his social commentary. For instance, in RoboCop there are several minor tracking and circular panning shots that are inventive and eye pleasing. However, the rest of the film feels phoned in and bland: especially the action scenes.
There are four major action set pieces and only one of them maintains a fun frantic energy. What makes this even worse is that the aforementioned best action is at the beginning, which leaves the rest of the film feeling uninspired by comparison. Yes, there is a cool idea at the end where a shootout takes place in the dark, however, the execution of the action is poor; the camera kept cutting between the darkness illuminated with gunfire, the infrared vision of RoboCop and the night vision of the villains. This constant cutting made the action undistinguishable, and as a result, the scene is an unwatchable mess.
With that said, RoboCop should not be considered an action movie because the action is the worst part; in retrospect, the social commentary and heavy themes of the film are welcome surprises. For instance, the comments about the Middle East are both relevant and scary to think about. Also, the hilarious Novak (Samuel L. Jackson) show is a great satire of Fox News. But that is where the satire ends, which leads to the problematic serious tone throughout. The remake could have used the satire and humor of the original; instead, the viewer is given heavy themes like euthanasia, child killing, and even the contemplation of free will. Now, I am not saying it is wrong to explore these themes, but the mishandling of these themes result in a film with an identity crisis.
But the problems do not stop there; the leading actor, Joel Kinnaman, is more robotic as a normal human than as RoboCop. He does not have chemistry with any of the cast and his line delivery feels forced. Perhaps, he is a good actor, but this movie is not a shining example. Also, the movie has a problem with the whole three-act structure; the sub-plot of his murder is predictable and tiring. The supposed villain, Antoine Vallon, is so bland and cliché that the audience does not care if he is caught. However, the film spends too much time on this sub-plot, which negatively shifts the focus of the film; so much so that it makes the overall plot convoluted. Who is the true villain? And though the remake remains fairly different from the original, for some reason the writers decided to copy the original’s ending. However, this does not work because the true villain of the RoboCop remake is not as sinister as the villain from the original. Furthermore, the villain’s crimes do not warrant RoboCop’s overblown reaction; this reaction could be seen as unsettling to our society who considers police violence a taboo subject.
While I did not expect to like this as much as I did, the film is still a downright mess. Between the tone problems and the identity crises, RoboCop misses the chance to be the great satire of millennial generation.