Better than it almost has any real right to be, José Padilha’s RoboCop reboot is an example to Hollywood as to how they should be done. Quickly putting distance between itself and Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 original, this RoboCop is a much different beast, and thankfully not in a Total Recall way. Where the latter remake (coincidentally of another beloved Verhoeven pic) annoyingly played up to fans with knowing callbacks in the hope of glossing over constant deficiencies, they’re largely absent here barring the odd line of dialogue, visual reference and welcome inclusion of Basil Poledouris’ stirring score.
It’s not the ‘80s and Padilha isn’t a crazy Dutchman running around Pittsburgh and Dallas with the anarchic attitude a $13 million budget allows, plus Verhoeven’s blend of over-the-top violence and satire isn’t a combination that would work if directly emulated today. Instead, with ten times the budget, Padilha has made a surprisingly thoughtful sci-fi action pic that explores a different philosophical question – not whether it’s ok to blend man and machine or treat a person as a corporate product, but where the moral limits of these notions lie.
Frequently amusing – thanks to welcomely hammy performances from company CEO Michael Keaton and uber-partisan broadcaster Samuel L. Jackson – RoboCop is also at times shocking (wait til you get a load of Alex Murphy’s new body), and strikes an unusual, subtly sarcastic (although not outright satirical) tone for a big budget Hollywood film. One of the few downsides is the kinetic camera movement and editing Padilha brings to the action scenes, bewildering to follow on IMAX, but presumably easier to follow on regular cinema screens. Bring on the next one.
‘RoboCop’ Movie Times