Though not a complete failure, this Robocop remake is not good.
Largely because it does not develop Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) or his relationships deeply enough to make us care about the man. Because of that failure, when Murphy loses consciousness, disappoints his son, or ignores his wife, we feel zero emotion.
We are just as emotionless when Murphy begins unraveling the conspiracy against him, or when he achieves redemption.
As Robocop is an action adventure, a disguised superhero film, it might appear the lack of emotion ought be recoverable. Here it is not, however, because director Jose Padilha and the film’s three credited writers aim for a message movie about humanity and morality. Because they want to make us care about individuals’ civil rights, it is paramount that they make us care about the individuals in their movie.
And they don’t.
Robocop is not all bad, however. Much of the action is exhilarating. Special mention for fights between Murphy and Omnicorp drones.
There are bouts of humor, often at the hands of Samuel L. Jackson (Pat Novak) or Jackie Earle Haley (Rick Mattox).
The audio, both the sound design and the score, effectively creates mood and tone.
Abbie Cornish (Clara Murphy) does tremendous work, all the more so because her character is undeveloped and she’s given limited screen time. Michael Keaton (Raymond Sellers) is excellent, as well.
In fact, all of the actors, including Kinnaman, are effective.
Too bad the screenplay betrays them. In addition to poorly developed characters and under-channeled emotion, the filmmakers’ satire is overstated and repetitive. Consider Novak’s closing monologue or Sellers’ vile (character-breaking) actions at the end of the film. Padilha and his writers repeatedly opt for obviousness over subtlety, for telling us what to think.
Which is their greatest mistake. It makes their political message less powerful, less resonant.