Movie Review: “RoboCop” – Arrestingly Average Action

Written by Leo Panasyuk March 01, 2014


Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 “RoboCop” proved itself to be more than just a run-of-the-mill action film about a police officer who becomes fused with a robot and fights crime; it was a glowing satire on the 1980’s and the decade’s obsession with greed, wealth, and violence. Verhoeven, though not my favourite director, certainly hit the nail on the slick-haired head of 80’s culture with a film that was both harsh and brutal yet smart and memorable. The same cannot be said, however, about Jose Padilha’s loosely-inspired remake as it attempts to process more than it can handle and ultimately feels unbalanced and underwhelming.

We’re Gonna Put a Man inside a Machine”

RoboCop” stars Joel Kinnaman as Detroit Police detective Alex Murphy. Murphy is a hard-nosed, by-any-means sort of cop whose arrogance is only matched by his drive and determination to get the job done and bring the bad guys to justice. When major crime boss Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow) attempts to assassinate Murphy following the latter’s close investigation of the former, he is taken by multinational conglomerate OmniCorp at the behest of its chief scientist Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), and transformed into the eponymous RoboCop. This is about where the similarities between this film and the original end.


Who Is Really in Control?

The problem with the new “RoboCop” is that it tries to do too much of one thing and not enough of the other; the film presents the ‘America is awesome!’ ideology right at the start but never really develops it, thinking that once the message of America’s superiority as a nation is made (loud and) clear, it no longer needs mention. Of course, the crux of the film is Murphy’s transformation into RoboCop but it’s done in a slow, semi-uninteresting way, spending most of its time repeating itself for what it’d like to call ‘dramatic effect’- yet this only comes across as lazy writing. There are some genuinely dramatic scenes in regards to Murphy’s discovery of his robotic state, including one that definitely left me speechless. Also Kinnaman is no doubt a formidable actor – he’s just no Peter Weller.


Though the film touts itself as an action-packed adventure, the action is admittedly sparse and small, with only a couple really outstanding set-pieces. However, it is enough to engage the audience and keep them entertained but it also feels reserved, as though the filmmakers lacked the confidence to  amp it up to the gratuitous level of the original. There’s more of a focus on drama than action and while this does give the film more humanity (oh, the irony), it only borrows elements from the original without ever elaborating on them. Murphy’s internal conflict with whether he’s more man than machine or vice versa is presented in a believable and serious manner but resolves itself before it can really get any traction.

Yes, Samuel L. Jackson is in this movie. No, he doesn't do anything other than talk.

Yes, Samuel L. Jackson is in this movie. No, he doesn’t do anything other than talk.

I’ve made it this far in my review without mentioning the supporting cast but all that really needs to be said about them is that they’re there to fill the space: Michael Keaton plays the film’s secondary antagonist whose performance is average, at best; Abbie Cornish plays Murphy’s wife Clara. The turmoil she endures at nearly losing her husband only to watch him become someone else is portrayed nicely by Cornish; Jay Baruchel and Jennifer Ehle play OmniCorp marketing and legal execs, respectively, and in all honesty, the movie could have benefitted without them as their only real purpose is to drive the plot forward with random bits of expository dialogue here and wooden acting there. Needless to say, the film needed more RoboCop and less of everything else.


RoboCop” is a less-than-exciting remake of the iconic 1987 original. Though it’s held up by strong performances by Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, and Abbie Cornish, there are enough kinks in this machine to hamper its overall operation. With too much emphasis on drama and not enough on the promised action, the film feels unbalanced and misleading. The action is enjoyable, however, but feels short and superficial, only there to try and remind you this really is an action film and not a drama. Bottom line: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – and if it is, fix it well.

My Rating: 5.5/10


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About Leo Panasyuk

A fan of all things film, Leo never really lets himself get tied down to one specific genre. He's always interested in watching new and old films and especially loves the IMAX format. When he's not choosing which movie to watch next, he's studying Film and English at Western University.

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