What's the "point" of a Robocop remake? If you're bothering to ask yourself such questions, you must find the modern world a frustrating place.
Towards the end (don’t worry, we’re not mentioning any plot here), Sam Jackson, hamming it up as a right-wing media wingnut, attempts some clunky parallel between drone strikes and the automated law-enforcement postulated in Paul Verhoeven’s original and this unstoppable retread. Never mind that the comparison makes no sense. The film now has some reason to exist. Or does it?
Forget all that. The only questions worth pondering are whether 1) the new film manages to avoid boring the pants off you, and 2) whether it will make money for the studio. We say: just about and who the heck can tell, these days. The producers made a smart decision in hiring José Padilha as director. In 2007, the Brazilian puzzled punters by delivering a film (the Golden Bear-winning Elite Squad) that seemed to make heroes of Rio's famously brutal paramilitary police service. Sound familiar?
Robocop's opening sections follow robotic products of the sinister EvilCorp, EnormoCorp, SatanCorp or whatever it's called (oh, yes, OmniCorp) as they violently police an occupied overseas territory. Back at home, woolly-bottomed liberals refuse to allow such machines on the streets. So the company, headed by demonic Michael Keaton, decides to insinuate the technology into the body of an injured police officer. You already know all this.
Annoyingly for those hoping for a total dud, Padilha does some very good work with the action sequences. The thudding discharges and whistling ricochets drag you, if not to the edge of your seat, then at least halfway along its surface. Joel Kinnaman, the Swedish star of Easy Money, is impressively stone-faced as the cop who ends up being made largely of metal.
So, the new film does its business reasonably efficiently. Sure, the satire doesn't penetrate. Yes, a game Abbie Cornish is saddled with a chiffon-light "wife part". True, Gary Oldman munches too noisily as the head scientist. What did you expect? Robocop?