With the amount of movie remakes that Hollywood greenlights nowadays, it seems even the half-decent ones are being drowned out by a never-ending torrent of misguided misfires. For every The Departed, there’s an Oldboy, a Wicker Man or a Total Recall. So it was no surprise that when a new take on RoboCop – Paul Verhoeven’s beloved 1987 sci-fi satire – was announced, fans raced onto the internet to voice their disapproval.
Just like the original, the struggle between man and machine forms the backbone, though here the concept is upended. In place of Peter Weller’s detached cyborg, Kinnaman is painfully aware of what’s happened to him; in fact, it’s the dubious attempts of OmniCorp to suppress Murphy’s humanity that provides much of the story’s morally murky edge. This is also where the redesigned suit starts to make sense: Kinnaman’s frequently exposed visage requires the actor to do a lot more dramatic lifting – especially in the scenes involving Murphy’s wife (Abbie Cornish) and young son – making for a more easily relatable and sympathetic hero.
And while this version does feel just a teensy bit toned down – with no melting men or machine-gun-mangled bodies in sight – Padilha at least captures the action with a frenetic, handheld ferocity reminiscent of his Elite Squad movies, as his streamlined enforcer guns his way through a series of intense set-piece shootouts.
Taking the original and successfully transplanting it into an ambitious new world, José Padilha’s english-language debut is an exciting, pacey and thoughtful sci-fi actioner.