Investigating possible corruption in the police force, officer Alex Murphy finds himself the target of an assassination attempt. With much of his body destroyed, he becomes subject to a radically new procedure which leaves him almost entirely machine. Little does he know that he now owes his very existence to OmniCorp, who are far more interested in making him the figurehead of a media campaign aimed to get the public to accept the face of robotic police enforcement. But what is in it for them? And if his brain can be controlled by a corporation, what is left of Murphy to call human at all?

RoboCop (2014) – Director: José Padilha

Is RoboCop appropriate for kids

Rating: 12A

Running Length: 118 mins

Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton

Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Crime

REVIEW

Continuing the trend of remakes from the plethora of ultra-violent ’80s sci-fi movies where the sex and violence are largely removed and the whole thing repackaged for a general modern audience (see: ‘Total Recall’), ‘RoboCop’ could be argued to be a pretty unnecessary movie. Not only unnecessary, but lacking in many of the elements that made the original tale so engaging. The problem with Padilha’s ‘RoboCop’ is one of follow through. It has all the basic elements: a plot line which states that Murphy (the titular RoboCop) believes he is making decisions – when in fact his software has removed free will – is introduced and then dropped with no resolution; the idea that machines mindlessly follow instructions and are unable to make a human judgement call is repeatedly brought up but not really explored; the nature of the soul of a man who is now 95% machine is plonked as the thematic core of the story, and yet there is no sense of humanity’s uniqueness winning out when all emotionalism is dead in the water with Kinnaman’s generic and un-engaging performance. Unfortunately, although the raw materials are all there, what is formed is a film, while very pretty to look at, fails to deliver any identity of its own.

Where ‘RoboCop’ shines is in the performances. Samuel L. Jackson sparkles as a tub-thumping right-wing TV anchor who berates the viewing public for not supporting a pro-robotic agenda. Michael Keaton’s antagonist is a man who gleefully only considers the profits he can make. Gary Oldman is spectacular as the well-meaning scientist looking to improve lives with his work on artificial implants for amputees, but finds himself conflicted when he makes compromises to his principles in order to fund his work. In fact, the film works very well except for the scenes with RoboCop himself, as played by Joel Kinnaman delivering what must be the blandest cookie-cutter grizzled cop lead in recent memory. His emotional journey is borne by the obligatory wife and child, and his personality singularly fails to engage anything more than standard action fare.

Paul Verhoeven’s original tale of a diseased city drowning in crime and greed – combined with the thematic exploration of what constitutes the human soul when the body is just machine parts – has been cleaned out of all the bold and brash excess; what is left after the purge equals a sleek and efficient, but ultimately (ironically) soulless version of an iconic classic.

IS ‘ROBOCOP’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

WARNING – During a firefight in the third act of the movie the lights in a building are turned off. The resulting gunfire leads to a strong strobing effect that lasts several minutes and may affect those that suffer from epilepsy

The opening scene shows a news report team filming an army clampdown on potential insurgents in a middle-eastern country. There are several men who strap explosives onto themselves in order to commit suicide ‘on camera’. We see the explosions shortly after and although there is no gore, it is clear that the characters have killed themselves by way of suicide bombing. A young teenager ignores his mother hysterically begging that he stay safe and he runs outside to threaten a large robot with a knife. The camera cuts to middle distance and the boy is shot whilst the mother screams in anguish. Whilst her distress is featured heavily for the 10 minutes leading up to this moment, after the boy’s death the scene soon ends.

Gun fights generally feature blood ‘puffs’ as characters are killed. Virtually no character killed has any established personality. They are all nameless villains and thus their deaths are not lingered on nor treated as emotional. However, there are several killed in a firefight in the first 15 minutes of the film and then during the last 30 minutes.

Murphy has a scene early on with his wife whereby they kiss passionately and she removes her shirt, although her underwear remains on. They move to the bed but are interrupted by an alarm going off. This scene is very short.

A car explodes which sends the person next to the car flying backwards and left smouldering on the floor. Other characters are distraught at this although no injury detail is displayed.

When Murphy realises he has become mostly machine he is shown what’s left of him is actually human. Parts of the body are taken away by robots and as less and less of him remains he panics and says ‘holy Christ’ three times. Eventually there is only a hand, lungs, face and brain remaining. We see the lungs inflate and deflate and are shown the brain close up. This is a long scene. Later there is a close up of an ongoing brain surgery with non-bloody detail shown.

When Robocop’s visor is down he can examine the criminal records of anyone he chooses. One criminal is described as being wanted for ‘rape, arson and murder’.

Watch out for the rolling news segments. The ‘live’ snippets at the bottom of the screen are often humorous but also risqué. One near the beginning of the movie states, ‘Astronauts to take hookers to space’.

Near the end of the movie Samuel L. Jackson’s character loses his temper and yells two strong curse words at the camera. Parts of these are bleeped so the detail is masked, but the words themselves are pretty clear. One such strong swear word is used earlier in the film without bleeping.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

Whilst the extreme edges of Verhoeven’s stylistic splatter-fest have been exorcised for this polished remake, the 2014 version of ‘RoboCop’ still operates as a mature movie with plenty of violence and adult themes. It also has moderate to strong cursing littered throughout and, oddly enough, is quite slow for the first 45 – 60 minutes. We would therefore suggest that this movie is not appropriate to children aged 10 and under. For those between 11 -12 we would recommend caution depending on attitudes to casual violence and bad language.

  • Violence:  4/5 Whilst there is little in the way of gore or gratuitous violence, there is a constant level of gun fights and aggression throughout.
  • Emotional Distress: 3/5 (Murphy’s wife and son are devastated at what happens to him and spend much of the movie being very emotional)
  • Fear Factor: 1/5 (the scene where Murphy is taken apart piece by piece may frighten some)
  • Sexual Content: 2/5 (one short scene of kissing and a partial nudity)      
  • Bad Language: 4/5 (moderate usage interspersed throughout and three examples of strong cursing (two of which are censored), occasional mild to moderate blasphemy)
  • Dialogue: 2/5   (a mention of rape as a crime, several threats and insults used)
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of corruption, the interests of big business, robotic autonomy,  the nature of the human soul, and media manipulation.

Words by Mike Record

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