Intensely philosophical, this “RoboCop” reboot is drama wrapped within a futuristic science-fiction morality tale.
Sometime soon citizens of the crime-ridden U.S. are unwilling to accept computerized machines as law enforcement officers (we have, after all, been schooled by four “Terminator” films).
Omnicorp’s CEO, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), has made a fortune providing robotic soldiers to the U.S. military but ogles the fortune available from the manufacturing of robotic policemen.
Omnicorp’s secondary business, the replacement of damaged human limbs, provides Sellars with a moment of marketing clarity when he realizes that a robotic cop — a computer with an on-site human being at the controls — is his way in.
Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), head of Omnicorp’s spare human parts division, is instructed to find a suitably wounded policeman to fill Omnicorp’s need.
That cop appears in Detroit detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), whose body has been horribly mangled in an explosive assassination attempt. Norton persuades Murphy’s bereft wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) that her husband — now paralyzed, legless and in a coma — can survive only if what remains functional is melded with a machine.
Sympathetic actor Joel Kinnaman is known for humanizing his cop character in television’s police drama “The Killing,” and he does the same here for Murphy, even after he’s secured, along with a computer, inside an armored suit.
Since future human evolution is predicted to blend us with robotic parts, films such as “RoboCop” provide a platform from which to contemplate that eventuality. What sort of bionic humans will we become when we are stronger, faster, smarter and able to instantly access any database, all while wielding an AK-47?
Naturally, being a Hollywood film, “RoboCop” predicts that the human side of us will tap into our more benevolent qualities, even while many of the characters who remain fully human fail to tap into anything other than greed.
Much credit goes to a special effects team that makes Kinnaman’s time in the RoboCop suit both seamless and compelling. Oldman, in particular, brings his character’s murky motivations to a long, slow simmer, while Keaton’s turn as a sociopathic billionaire has a flow that nicely informs the action without overwhelming it.
Viewers looking for an action flick might be disappointed by four or five relatively short, but nicely choreographed, battle sequences. Those in search of something more will find plenty to look at and more to think about.