Film Review: Good old RoboCop in an unsettling new dystopia

It always seems to me that Hollywood remakes the wrong films: surely it’d be better to remake rubbish films, rather than remaking classic films that are difficult to do justice to. But, true to form, Brazilian director José Padilha has remade 1987’s Robocop, an iconic blockbuster if ever there was one.

Interestingly though, it’s not bad at all. This is a remake, yes, but it feels more like Robocop reimagined for the 21st century. The 1987 version’s social commentary is there, but now the shadowy forces of conspiratorial evil from the original are updated for today’s society.

The plot centres on the CEO of the dystopian-sounding and dystopian-acting corporation OmniCorp, Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton). He wants to bring robotic drones (Drones! Very contemporary) to America’s cities, after their success in a war in Iran.

Sellers gets his way after combining with the sinister scientist Dr Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) to turn seriously-injured policeman Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) into the film’s eponymous part-human, part-robot law enforcer. From there, the real troubles begin.

The film impresses with its bleak and futuristic, but grimly plausible vision of the future. It paints a picture of choice and freedom battered from all sides by the manipulative nature of the media and Big Business, and of a society watched over by omnipresent surveillance.

It is both an unsettling mirror of our current world, but also a disquieting forecast of what it might become. However, it mostly lacks the dark satire of the original, aside from Samuel L Jackson’s memorable turn as Pat Novak, the zealous presenter of a Fox Newsesque show.

Robocop himself is noticeably sleeker and shinier than in the original, and played solidly if not spectacularly by Kinnaman.

There are a few intense action sequences throughout, where juddery camerawork and fast cuts are used to decent effects, but the film is more about the plot and the compellingly brooding sense of menace that permeates it all.

Whilst it won’t achieve the iconic status of the original, not least because it isn’t quite as good, it does actually manage to transcend its inauspicious ‘remake’ status and achieve something distinctive.

RoboCop (15)


Dir: José Padilha, US action, 2014, 118 minutes; Joel Kinnaman, Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman, Samuel L Jackson

Premieres February 6
Playing at Fisketorvet and Palads