There are a lot of reboots being released in theaters these days, with varying results. Jose Padilha's remake of RoboCop is better than most, with a fun and explosive, but still somewhat thoughtful, take on the original Verhoeven picture.
The titular RoboCop, Detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) along with his partner Jack (Michael K. Williams), is doggedly pursuing the crime boss Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow) in an investigation that isn't exactly sanctioned by his superiors. Meanwhile, the country is in the grip of an intense debate over the use of drones and robots for police work, something that behemoth OmniCorp does all over the world, but is illegal in the U.S. OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) is pushing hard to get his robots in the country, with the help of rabble rousing political commentator Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson), but Congress won't allow it. A solution presents itself when Murphy is severely injured by a car bomb.
OmniCorp offers to rebuild him, but they want some positive PR out of the deal, so they're putting him back out on the streets of Detroit to do police work. But he's just not responding as quickly as the straight robots. So, they start to make modifications. Lower his emotions, put the computer in more control, etc. It doesn't work out quite as anyone would like.
The nice thing about RoboCop, as a reboot, is that they didn't try to duplicate the original. This is really a completely different story, with different themes and emphases. This iteration is more about free will and its constraints, and what really makes a man a man. Sure, there's some corporate malfeasance and crime commentary, but that's secondary to the exploration of Murphy as a person dealing with very difficult circumstances. Plus, there are plenty of explosions, gunfights, fraught encounters, betrayals, etc. The film pleases on many levels. In fact, I wish that more reboots would take the approach of, "Hey, let's just write a decent script and get really great actors for even the small roles." That's a formula I could get behind. I mean, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Jay Baruchel, and even Doug Urbanski. A lot of these aren't huge roles, but they got solid performers for them.
The biggest problem I had with RoboCop was that the climaxes (there were a couple) were a bit of a letdown. Neither of the highly charged confrontations had much of an impact, and had more of a "not with a bang but a whimper" feel to them. In other areas, the writing was quite good, if at the expected level for a whiz bang action film. But they didn't seem to quite know how to finish things, and as a result the film is somewhat emotionally unsatisfying.
It's not a total loss, though. The ride is fun. And at almost two hours, the film doesn't drag or have a squishy middle. The audience is always drawn right along with the action. The production values are top notch, the effects are great (there are only a couple of cheesy CGI shots, at least cheesy enough for the viewer to notice), the performances are great, and the story is better than average. In short, this is a pretty good film if you want to leave your brain at the door and just have a good time.
RoboCop is quite good as far as reboots go, and you'll enjoy yourself as long as your standards aren't unreasonably high. You couldn't ask for a better cast, or a more slickly produced film. If you're looking for more thoughtful than normal action, this is the film for you. Highly recommended.
Video is 2.40:1 widescreen, and it looks very good. The image is very bright and crisp, with a wide palette of colors, which varies from location to location. Lots of browns and earth tones in the Tehran scenes. Lush greens in China, lots of chrome and blue for the industrial labs. This is a very good looking film.
Audio is available in English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 channel, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, English descriptive audio, and many other audio tracks. There is no hiss or other problem with the sound, and it's encompassing during the action scenes. The dialogue is always clearly audible, and there are subtitles in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Portuguese and many others.
There are a few extras on the disc. They are:
Five deleted scenes are included, running to just about four minutes. Presumably they were cut for time. There's nothing jarring or out of place, and they're mildly interesting.
OmniCorp Product Announcement
These are several fake commercials for OmniCorp products, including the drones, robots, and a couple of versions of the RoboCop itself.
RoboCop: Engineered for the 21st Century
This is a making of feature, essentially, that runs to almost thirty minutes. It details how Padilha came to make RoboCop, his thought processes, the design of the weapons, motorcycle and robosuit. There are lots of interviews and behind the scenes footage. This is quite interesting.
Theatrical Trailer 1
This is a fairly standard trailer, clocking in at 2:12.
Theatrical Trailer 2
This is also a pretty standard trailer, but is more evocative and effective than the first.
RoboCop is a fresh take on the original, thoughtful but still with plenty of excitement and action. It's not perfect, but close enough for a summer thrill ride. There are a lot of great actors giving great performances stuffed into the film. Any movie with Doug Urbanski is worth it just to watch him work, and he's got one of the smallest roles in the show. Check it out, and spend a couple of enjoyable hours.