• Mike Holtz

Giving the 'Robocop' Remake Another Chance, Five Years Later

J and I have been making youtube videos about movies for nearly nine years now. I can remember quite clearly all our excitement (at first) five years ago in movie news videos surrounding the freshly announced ‘Robocop’ reboot.

“That black suit looks badass.”

“I’ve always thought Joel Kinnaman was underrated.” (I had only seen him in ‘The Killing’, which I still maintain he’s great in)

“Jose Padilha was made to direct this movie.” (We had just watched Padilha’s ‘Elite Squad 2’, an amazing action epic about police corruption in Brazil)

“Michael Keaton? Gary Oldman? Holy shit!!”

Then the signals of the end.

“PG-13? The fuck?”

We finally reached the part where you watch the actual movie and all I remember is utterly hating it. The final product felt like all the fears we’d had incarnate. The PG-13 rating castrated any chance of capturing Verhoeven’s ballsy satire that made the original stand out and Joel Kinnaman suddenly had the emotional acting range of a potato. Never watched the film again or even thought about it until they mentioned another reboot headed our way recently.

Five years later and I’m in a Dollar Tree buying cheap candy and football cards because I’m twelve and what do I see? Fucking ‘Robocop’ on blu-ray. Right next to the shitty cartoon DVD’s and across the aisle from the Faygo cola. Hundred million dollar movie ‘Robocop’. For a dollar. On blu-ray.

I pointed to it in disbelief, looked at another Dollar Tree patron, laughed and said “I’d buy that for a dollar!”, proud of myself.

She scowled at me as she shoved past me with her cart full of Beanie Weenies.

Now, maybe it was the fresh scent of cigarette smoke and salisbury steak permeating from Tony Soprano’s mom at the Dollar Tree but I suddenly felt the urge to give ‘Robocop’ another chance now that I had no hopes, dreams, nor expectations. Here’s what happened.

The black suit is still badass. The way the red visor shines in a dark room made me feel all tingly inside. Like when they used to make us climb the rope back in gym class.

I was shocked all over again by the all star cast. Michael Keaton as the main bad guy in a fucking ‘Robocop’ movie? That could have been legendary. Too bad his character was written as bland as a fourth rate Marvel villain and the overstuffed plot left no time for the actors to chew any of the scenery.

Speaking of bloated story. It still feels as if they were trying to shoehorn three films into one. There’s the Alex Murphy family storyline, the ‘Iron Man 2’ storyline about Keaton’s company trying to convince the senate his robots could protect us, the cop drama, the partner drama, the scientific elements of rebuilding Alex, the moral scruples of Gary Oldman’s character, the Denis Leary from ‘Demolition Man’ street bad guy subplot (who was built up as some super badass and died in like five seconds) AND the unreasonably jealous weapons adversary character played by Jackie Earle Haley. There was five goddamn movies happening here! It was like a stuffed Chipotle burrito from hell, dipped in shitty idea sauce.

Speaking of writing, I also realized this was writer Joshua Zetumer’s first film. How the fuck do you get ‘Robocop’ as your first ever writing gig?

I still think Jose Padilha could have been the right man for the job if only the studio didn’t interfere. Rumors were that Padilha told a friend that if he gave the studio ten ideas, they would reject nine of them and called the making of the film “The worst experience of his life”.

Mainly reserved to the Samuel L. Jackson Fox News like dialogue inserts throughout the film, you could still sense Padilha’s rage against government corruption that was present in his earlier films. With some humor, he could have used the Verhoeven model to really say some things with ‘Robocop’. Instead, the aforementioned Chipotle burrito from hell and PG-13 rating just gave him no chance.

All that I mentioned above meant that when we finally got to the “Robocop on the streets and kicking ass” portion of the film? It was so short you couldn’t even call that piece of shit a montage. He takes down one bad guy and all of a sudden crime is down 80% in Detroit and there are murals of his name on city skyscrapers. What the ever loving fuck? Did Vince McMahon write this?

I will once again admit that I was wrong about Joel Kinnaman. He was not ready for this role. The only nice thing I can say about him here is that he looked the part. When they dropped the visor and covered up his voice. Alex Murphy is put through some of the worse things imaginable in ‘Robocop’ and through it all Joel Kinnaman just looks like he can’t decide what to order at Taco bell.

Something lost in the vast disappointments spread throughout this film like bullet shells that never hit anyone because we have to keep a PG-13 rating at all costs, is how well some of the action scenes were crafted. One scene in which Robocop drives his badass looking motorcycle into a building to take on two ED-209’s, in particular. I was damn near blown away at how seamlessly the CG was crafted.

People (Journalists who are usually friends with the people making the movies in question) like to pretend that ratings don’t matter and snear their noses at fans who get concerned over them. ‘Robocop’ is a perfect example of how wrong they are. This could have been a film jam packed with badass moments and biting satire that sure, had some story and pacing issues but also had something to say. Fans would have been okay with that. Instead, the studio was worried about the budget getting out of control and deemed the film must be PG-13 to allow them to make some of their money back and that simply left this ‘Robocop’ remake unable to be a ‘Robocop’ film.

So, here we are. I enjoyed the film immensely more the second time I watched it, even if all the same problems are still present. Just maybe not the disappointment or anger. ‘Robocop’ is still a beautiful film to look at and I’ll be damned if Padilha and company didn’t try their asses off to piece this thing together with the script and rules they were given. It’s a shame a lot of peoples careers took the hit for this when it boils down to bad decisions made by the studio and script writers. On the bright side, The Dollar Tree has blu-rays for a dollar! I’d give ‘Robocop’ a 6/10 upon rewatch.

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