Robocop, film review: 'Wisely uses plenty of sardonic humour'

(12A) José Padilha, 121 mins Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Douglas Urbanski, Abbie Cornish, Gary Oldman

Geoffrey Macnab@TheIndyFilm
Thursday 06 February 2014 23:15
Joel Kinnaman as Alex Murphy in Robocop
Joel Kinnaman as Alex Murphy in Robocop

RoboCop rebooted a quarter of a century after Paul Verhoeven's 1987 original still has a subversive quality. The Brazilian director José Padilha may be working for a Hollywood studio but he doesn't temper his critique of American imperialism, big business and political corruption. As if to reinforce his punk credentials, he even ends the film with a song from The Clash.

The problem is that for all the sound and fury here, Padilha struggles to reconcile the organic and robotic elements of the storytelling. It's hard to engage on an emotional level with a lead character – Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) – who is more machine than he is man.

The B-movie-style action sequences sit uncomfortably alongside the political satire and the Frankenstein-style elements. (Gary Oldman is the brilliant scientist ready to provide shadowy, crypto-fascist corporation OmniCorp the means to create a RoboCop, half human and half machine, in return for research funding.)

RoboCop is full of ingenious ideas, even if they don't knit together especially well. One of the best involves Kinnaman's cop, who has suffered fourth-degree burns over 80 per cent of his body, using the software implanted in him to solve his own murder.

Padilha also wisely uses plenty of sardonic humour to leaven affairs. "It's not a suit, Alex, it's you!" the cop is told when he first looks down on the armoured plating that has taken the place of his body.

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