Thursday, February 13, 2014

ROBOCOP (2014)

Review by James Colt Harrison                             

Directed by: Jose Padilha
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Earle Haley, Abby Cornish, Jay Baruchel, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Patrick Gallow, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, John Paul Ruttan
Disgusting and creepy were the first two words that came to mind when viewing the half body of injured policeman Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman). With lungs shown puffing up and down and his esophagus clearly showing him gulping air, it is a stomach-turning image that does not leave your memory. Blown apart in a car bombing, there is nothing left of him except his head and respiratory system. It’s a bit too graphic for most non-medical people to see. Murphy is the first human being used in an experiment to join robotic parts with a human being, as designed and manipulated by mad scientist Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) and his assistant Jai Kim (Aimee Garcia).

The evil, but sincere, Michael Keaton, is head of OmniCorp, the outfit that makes the robotic cops. He’s got his marketing team (Jennifer Ehle and the comical Jay Baruchel) working overtime to convince the domestic police departments to add robots to fight crime. Dr. Norton (Oldman) is a serious researcher but is not wholly convinced about adding human beings to the equation of the proposed new-fangled robot-human machine. He reluctantly saves part of Officer Murphy’s body and conjures up a whole new creature. It’s Frankenstein of the future—it’s alive! It’s alive!

There would be no excitement if something didn’t go haywire, so director Padilha has Murphy’s tampered-with brain throw some short circuits and voila! ---he has a mind of his own! Determined to capture and kill the rat gun-runner and crime boss Anton Vallon (Patrick Garrow), the perpetrator of his nearly-fatal car bomb accident. The science lab can’t over-ride his blitzed brain, and there is going to be a bumpy night ahead.

This film is allegedly a remake of the 1987 film which apparently had more irony and a sense of humor. There is no humor here, except in an occasional outburst of young Baruchel, always a pleasant character in films.

The film is neither a disaster nor a masterpiece, but it is well-made. All the computer graphic images and explosions are well managed. However, we must take exception to the thunderous sound track. Raised to ear-splitting decibels, it serves to disintegrate everyone’s cochlea and reduce it to a mass of quivering ash. Samuel Jackson’s superfluous part as a TV anchor demonstrates how a normally mellifluous voice such as his is turned into a rock-concert loud speaker run amok. Supervising Sound Editor Karen Baker Landers and Sound Designers Ann Scibelli and Peter Staubli should have their heads stuck into a ceramic cereal bowl and struck with a Chinese gong to see how they like it.

Joel Kinnaman is a fairly unknown actor in the United States. Audiences may know him from his appearances in the film The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) or the Swedish film Easy Money (2010). He was born in 1979 in Sweden and raised in Stockholm. His parents are American and Swedish, so he has dual citizenship. He began making films in 2002 in his native Sweden and became a popular star throughout Europe. He’s ambivalent about stardom and once said, “I absolutely don’t feel that I have to take any role that I can get just because it is in the United States. I’m looking for something interesting. I must dare to do things even when there is a risk for failure.”

We don’t want to give the impression we are judging the film harshly, but when director Padilha was asked about the making of the film he said, it was “the worst experience of my life.” He stuck his foot further into his gaping mouth when he continued with “I have never suffered so much and I do not want to do it again.” I’m just saying.—MGM/ Columbia Pictures.

ArtsNFashion Winter 2013/2014
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