ROBOCOP (José Padilha). 110 minutes. Some subtitles. Now playing. For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
If you think about it, we’re basically living in the world of the original RoboCop. The desensitized mediascape, cynical bureaucracy and neutered police force of Paul Verhoeven’s Old Detroit is right here in Rob Ford’s Toronto.
So it’s almost poetic that José Padilha’s remake should have been produced here. And it’s tragic that the movie does absolutely squat with its 21st-century potential.
Like that awful Total Recall remake a couple of years back, which was also made right here in T.O., RoboCop 2.0 appropriates the title of a beloved movie property and a couple of key images and builds a joyless, insensate new mechanism around them. All the good stuff gets left behind.
Oh, there’s still a cop named Alex Murphy (The Killing’s Joel Kinnaman) and he still winds up inside a cyborg body through the questionable generosity of a megacorporation that sees him as the first in a highly profitable series of peacekeepers.
But all the dynamics are different, and for no good reason. Other than one inspired reference to Manufactured Landscapes, of all things, Padilha fails to make his movie feel inspired or even necessary.
There are moments when the new Robo seems about to engage with Verhoeven’s subversive humour and ghoulish central concept, which rattle around inside this new body like a ghost. You need an artist to coax them out, though, and Padilha’s just a hired gun.