ROBOCOP – Review by Susan Granger

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There has to be a reason to justify a remake, particularly when the original is Paul Verhoeven’s cynical 1987 crime-fighting/greed-corruption satire. What this new version has in its favor is contemporary timeliness. Read on…

Jose Padilla’s updated sci-fi fantasy is set in 2028, as law-and-order news commentator Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson) reports how OmniCorp is testing its latest robotics technology, keeping the peace by enforcing the law in Tehran, and he bemoans the fact that politicians in the “robophobic” U.S. are adamantly opposed to non-human policing, led by adamant Sen. Herbert Dreyfus (Zach Grenier).

Recognizing the need for a missing ‘moral judgment’ element, OmniCorp’s devious CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) inveigles conflicted scientist Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) and his team in a Chinese lab to interface a human brain into a robot. Its hapless owner happens to be critically injured Detroit cop Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), whose grieving wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) hesitantly grants permission. Within three months, Murphy is reformulated as a powerful, motorcycle-riding cyborg, as Dr. Norton rewires his brain to follow artificial intelligence rather than his own human impulses. “It’s the illusion of free will,” Norton notes. Problem is: Murphy’s humanity gradually begins to dominate his programming, and he’s determined to apprehend his murderer.

Best known for his “Elite Squad” thrillers, Brazilian director Jose Padilla tackles his first English-language feature, incoherently scripted by Joshua Zetumer, with a heavy-hand and mind-numbing, video-game mentality: if you can’t make it good, make it loud. Riffing on Basil Pouledouris’s original score, Pedro Bromfman’s music cleverly utilizes “If I Only Had a Brain” from The Wizard of Oz.

Alongside seasoned pros like Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton, Swedish actor Joel Kinnamon of TV’s The Killing acquits himself well, as do Jackie Earle Haley as a weasely weapons expert, Jennifer Ehle as a corporate exec and Jay Baruchel as a marketing maven. Abbie Cornish has little to do but cry and look justifiably upset.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Robocop is a frenzied 5, undermining an intriguing, ethically-challenging existential concept with mechanized mayhem.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.