Robocop – review

José Padilha's heavy-handed remake of Paul Verhoeven's black-comic film quickly degenerates into a boring action pile-up

Paul Verhoeven's black-comic gem from 1987 has been remade – which is to say, all the wit has been removed and it's been turned into a dumbed-down shoot-em-up frontloaded with elaborate but perfunctory new "satirical" material in which the movie loses interest with breathtaking speed. The original film imagined an anarchic future Detroit in which authorities yearned for robotic solutions. An early, tank-like prototype was discarded after it failed to respond to orders and killed an official – a famously hilarious scene for which, tellingly, this new version has no equivalent. Then the mangled remains of a half-dead officer were salvaged into a cyborg-style armoured "RoboCop", who clanked and wheezed around the streets with thrilling and hilarious efficiency and ruthlessness. In its opening 10 minutes, this new film appears to remember both the early and later "tank" and "humanoid" prototypes, deploying them against counter-insurgents on the conquered streets of Tehran, and these robots are explicitly called "drones". All cute or cute-ish ideas. But once the action is removed to the US, all these cerebral touches just vanish, and they turn out simply to have muddled and delayed the main event: a deafening, boring action pile-up that is more Call of Duty than Robocop. And if you're waiting for action sequences in the legendary ruins of that economically ravaged place – forget it. Director José Padilha seems uninterested in or unaware of Detroit's tragi-surreal reputation. Or perhaps he thinks the ruins will be cured, because this just looks like any generic sci-fi dystopian city, and Padilha is as heavy-handed as he was in his Brazilian "Elite Squad" movies. A serious case of rust.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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