It might have been prudent to leave Robocop frozen on the screen from the original 1987 film. Robocop does try to stand up on its own robotic legs, falls short, and the signal is somewhat lost. Like its predecessor, Robocop takes place in the not-to-distant future in a crime riddled Detroit. Apparently, the once bankrupt city seems to be thriving with Omnicorp (OCP), the technological giant supplying soldier drones throughout the world, with the exception of the United States.
The film starts with a parodied talk show news pundit, Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson), who is blindly favoring one side of the political coin. Novak enlightens the world to why these super soldiers are not favored among Americans, but should be embraced. According to one politician, Hubert Dreyfuss (Zach Grenier) who oposes OCP, the People want to see the moral dilemma between right and wrong and these robotic soldiers are obviously lacking in these departments. This theme of morality is skimmed during parts of the movie, but does not completely make it to the main stage for more than a brief scene or two. Novak believes in Omnicorp, its owner Raymond Sellars (played by a long lost Michael Keaton), and their contributions to society. This version of Robocop has Alex Murphy (played by Swedish Joel Kinnaman “The Killing”) as an undercover police officer who is partnered up with Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams “The Wire“ and “Boardwalk Empire”) to successfully bring down an illegal gun cartel kingpin, Antoine Vallon (played by Patrick Garrow). Murphy and Lewis are climbing their way to the top of the thug ladder for a sit down meeting with Vallon. When crooked cops on the force tip off Vallon, and a shootout ensues, Lewis ends up in the hospital. Murphy, hell bent on revenge, makes Vallon and the corrupt cops edgy, so they attempt a hit on Murphy’s life. Well, this happens just in time for Omnicorp, who is looking for a hero for their get Americans on board cyborg project, to swoop in and show the people that this man’s life can be saved and upgraded to become a “Robocop”.
The saving grace of the film has to be Dr. Dennett Norton (played by the incredibly talented Gary Oldman). The doctor behind giving Murphy a second chance seems to be playing on the side of good for most of the film and you want to like him. Dr. Norton brings a sliver of compassion to the film in trying to reunite Alex with his wife and son while Sellars and his team, including the “comic relief” marketing agent, Tom Pope (Jay Baruchel), have their own intentions for Robocop.
Beyond the brief existential debate about whether Robocop still has a soul: Is he a man or machine? The film does not feel grounded. It has very few action scenes, although the scenes with close ups are directed well, the larger scale scenes are blurry and hard to track. The framework is flimsy, missing the satirical elements from the original movie, Robocop can’t decide if it is a “shoot ‘em up” mindless action film (which is fine) or if it is trying to say more about society. On top of that, Robocop is built with a weakness, which one would think if a corporation is willing to spend billions of dollars, they would make their cyborg as close to indestructible as possible.
Robocop is fun and if nothing else and it’s nice to see Michael Keaton getting roles. Also, it was nice to see a few nods to the original Robocop thrown in randomly. Jay Baruchel and his baby face is almost funny and believable as a legitimate adult (they slapped a beard on him), except he’s just the wormy guy. They should have given him glasses to complete the illusion. Fortunately, Joel Kinnaman becomes Robocop early on, because as Alex Murphy, he almost ruins everything for the film with his stiff and wooden emotions, which later on fits as Robocop. I’ll let the public decide if they want to buy into Robocop for at least a dollar.