MONDAY MOVIES: RoboFlop

The remake, helmed by Brazilian action stylist Jose Padilha (Elite Squad), takes advantage of the advances in special effects

The original RoboCop came out in 1987 and, despite the heavy hand of Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, the movie’s satirical portrayal of the militarization of the police was clever and, as it turned out, prescient. The remake, helmed by Brazilian action stylist Jose Padilha (Elite Squad), takes advantage of the advances in special effects that have occurred in the last quarter century, and adds a critique of both global corporatization and the right wing punditry common on America’s Fox News. The result is flashy, ambitious … and surprisingly flatfooted.

The movie, set 15 years in the future, opens with Samuel L. Jackson as a flamboyant TV windbag complaining about how heavily armed American-made robots have tamed the murderous streets of cities all over the world. Everywhere, that is, except America, where there is resistance to killing machines let loose in the land of the free. Hoping to change that is the folksily charismatic head of OmniCorp (Michael Keaton), who persuades his leading research scientist (Gary Oldman) to design a cyborg that will merge a human head with the latest in lethal robotic hardware. And when a brave Detroit cop named Alex Murphy (Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman) gets blown up and is nearly dead, they suddenly have an appealing “public face” to help sell the idea of lethal law enforcement mediated by a human soul.

The movie has two key subplots: violent street gangs linked to corruption inside the police department, which Alex was investigating and which is why he was nearly killed; and the cynical machinations of OmniCorp, which is treating Alex (well, what little is left of him) like a lab monkey in order to polish the public image of RoboCop and thus win needed political and public support. Predictably, these two storylines overlap explosively by the time the movie thunders to its climax.

Despite its fine actors and serious themes, RoboCop never quite rises above its pulp (science) fiction roots. As an action film, it’s one-dimensional (and how come, when the bad guys know that his robo-body is vulnerable to 50-calibre bullets and that a shot to the face is lethal, they can’t take him out?) And as a cautionary tale, the dense script has too much solemn talk and not enough satiric fun. Ultimately, the movie lumbers with a gracelessness reminiscent of its protagonist.

Robocop ΗΗ 1/2

Stars Samuel L. Jackson,

Michael Keaton

Directed by Jose Padilha

COMING SOON:

Non-Stop

The soulful Liam Neeson has successfully morphed into a full-throttle action hero, and in his newest outing he plays an air marshal framed for hijacking an international flight with an on-board bomb.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

DreamWorks is behind this classy-looking adaptation of the vintage TV cartoon about the world’s smartest dog and his adopted (human) son.

Grace of Monaco

Nicole Kidman looks perfectly cast in this drama about Grace Kelly, which focuses on the actress’s crisis of marriage and identity that is set in the early 1960s during a political row between Monaco and France.

Noah

Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Black Swan) meditates on the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark. Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins  … and, presumably, lots of digital animals.

Blood Ties

The world of organized crime in 1970s Brooklyn is the setting for this drama about two brothers on opposing sides of the law. Starring Mila Kunis, Billy Crudup, James Caan, and Clive Owen.

Muppets Most Wanted

A criminal mastermind who is a dead ringer for Kermit the Frog drives the action in this lively Muppet caper featuring the vocal artistry of Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais, and Ty Burrell.

PERFECTLY POTABLE:

It was pepper-steak night in the man cave recently and my buddy brought along a yummy bottle of 7 Deadly Zins. I’m not sure why Zinfandel lends itself to outrageous puns – maybe it’s the bold nature of the wine itself. Deeply coloured and shamelessly fruit forward, this 2010 bottling has that classic, slightly unruly Zin flavour profile of blackberry, black cherry, prune, spice, and vanilla … all heading into a long, hedonistic finish. Well worth the $25 splurge!

 

 

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