This one I recommend.

This one I recommend.

Is it just me or is the backside of that bike... not there?

Is it just me or is the backside of that bike… not there?

Could've been a LOT worse.

Could’ve been a LOT worse.

After 2012’s Total Recall remake, Robocop is now the second Paul Verhoeven film to receive a remake that inexplicably chooses to scrap that which made the original film so enjoyable: the violence. The difference between the two is that RoboCop succeeds much more strongly!

Total Recall was okay but not highly memorable apart from some charming nods to the film it was based on in the first place. RoboCop works similarly, but it also manages to be memorable in its own right. It was especially satisfying to see fellow swede Joel Kinnaman deliver a surprisingly strong leading performance.

The hero in question is, of course, policeman Alex Murphy. He’s a family man with a loving wife (played by Abbie Cornish) and a child, who loses almost his entire body when a car bomb goes off (yeah, not a shootout this time) outside his own home. This brutal accident – which I’m sure would have been more gruesome had they only maintained the R-rating – makes him the subject of  experiments conducted by Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) as ordered by corrupt OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (played by a very entertaining Michael Keaton), as part of the latter’s attempt to legalize robotic law enforcement in the US. Regular robots and good old ED-209 are used worldwide but frowned upon in America so what’s the experiment? Why, turning Murphy into a cyborg of course!

Thus Murphy becomes RoboCop and his existence is intended to prove that machines can be used for good if a human brain is in charge. Partially opposed to RoboCop is Rick Mattox (Jackie Earle Hayley), a military technician who believes that machines are rendered useless when a human mind is merged with the electronics. This is what motivates Norton to modify RoboCop and remove the thing that holds him back: his memories of the people he loves and the life he lost. I’d say this is where the film starts to function more like the original but this is also the part where they paint RoboCop black. I didn’t mind the design as much as I expected, though.

It's mind vs. brute strength with Gary Oldman and Jackie Earle Hayley in 'RoboCop'.

It’s mind vs. brute strength with Gary Oldman and Jackie Earle Hayley in ‘RoboCop’.

A colorful cast supporting actors includes Michael K. Williams (whom I recongnised from The Wire and Community) as Murphy’s old partner, Jennifer Ehle as an OmniCorp legal affairs head, Jay Baruchel as “the marketing guy” and Samuel L. Jackson as Pat Novak, a loudmouthed TV host who, like Stanley Tucci in Hunger Games, narrates many of the things that happen in the film. His character made me sure of one thing: Samuel L. Jackson should be the host of every TV show ever. When he’s not busy giving alterations to movie company logos, I mean. I won’t reveal what I’m referring to but I will say that Jackson made me believe I’d walked into the wrong movie for a second.

Speaking of good characters, that’s exactly what this film is so surprisingly full of. Joel Kinnaman’s Murphy, while not perfect, was solid and much more impressive than I ever expected and on top of having a pretty convincing American accent, he skillfully made me care for the Alex Murphy character. Gary Oldman, meanwhile, comes off as flawlessly genuine in his role as what’s essentially a caring father figure for post-accident Murphy and he’s easy to side with when things get turbulent. Jackie Earle Hayley is also great, not only because he gets to reference the classic “I’d buy that for a dollar” line (with a twist). Even Jay Baruchel, in spite of a somewhat minor role, gets some memorably funny moments.

But the thing that almost made me want to stand up in the theatre and applaud was the fact that we, in Lord knows how long, finally got a remake that includes the main theme from the original! The late Basil Poledouris‘ score was by far one of the greatest aspects of the original RoboCop and I am so glad that they actually used the melody for the film’s opening title, and even a few additional scenes. It was the right thing to do so massive kudos! Oh and playing “I Fought The Law” over the end credits was pretty funny.

In spite of some oddly lacking greenscreen effects and not enough “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me”, I did very much enjoy RoboCop and I’m gonna give it a 4/5. It definitely gives me some hope for all the remakes that are spewing out of Hollywood these days.

4/5 whatever