Critics sharpened their knives as the Jose Padilha-helmed remake of Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop approached, expecting an unwanted intrusion on the original’s turf. But some of them, at least, are surprisingly high on the film, which puts Joel Kinnaman in the suit once occupied by Peter Weller. Seems Padilha, whose Elite Squad movies have been attacked for their fascist leanings and celebrated as subversive critiques of same, was a good fit to follow in Verhoeven’s footsteps, packing plenty of social commentary in along with the movie’s explosions. Here’s what the first wave of reviews has to say.
Guy Lodge, Variety
Shifting the prime target of its satire from corporate greed to post-9/11 jingoism, this well-cast, smarter-than-expected remake repairs much of the damage done to the iron-fisted lawman’s reputation by meat-headed sequels and spinoffs; it’s a less playful enterprise than the original, but meets the era’s darker demands for action reboots with machine-tooled efficiency and a hint of soul.
Oliver Lyttelton, the Playlist
It’s far from an absolute triumph, sure, but it’s significantly smarter and sharper than you’d give it credit for going in, with a (mostly) committed cast (mostly) having some fun with it, and an admirable commitment to character and ideas, over and above action and effects. It might not be worth mentioning in the same breath as Verhoeven’s original, but it’s at least in the same circulatory system.
Leslie Felperin, Hollywood Reporter
It’s as if someone took an original Macintosh and packed if full of the very latest chips and graphics cards — all very clever but just a tiny bit silly. That said, in some ways, the thoughtful, dense script marks an improvement on the original, and the cast is certainly tonier this time around. What’s missing is the original’s evil wit, amoral misanthropy and subversive slipperiness.
Richard Jordan, Total Film
[W]hile this version does feel just a teensy bit toned down — with no melting men or machine-gun-mangled bodies in sight — Padilha at least captures the action with a frenetic, handheld ferocity reminiscent of his Elite Squad movies, as his streamlined enforcer guns his way through a series of intense set-piece shootouts.
Ryan Lambie, Den of Geek
Padilha displays much of the remarkable talent he brought to his Elite Squad films — and explores similar themes in RoboCop — but he’s let down in part by a script that never quite clicks into gear. Where Verhoeven’s film strode purposefully from Murphy’s brutal murder to his resurrection and subsequent vengeance, the new iteration — written by Joshua Zetumer — loses its way somewhere in the middle, fumbling with an unremarkable plot involving a gunrunner and several corrupt cops.
Chris Tilly, IGN
The real problem with this remake is its lack of big, brass, robo-balls…. Indeed thanks to the remake having a more family-friendly certificate, the action often cuts away when violence strikes, leaving you unsure whether Robocop has killed, maimed, or just stunned.
Simon Reynolds, Digital Spy
Nobody should have an issue with the screenwriters for trying to remodel the script, but you can change the lyrics without losing the music or the structure. What made the 1987 movie incarnation of RoboCop so effective has been replaced by a cold wave of metallic mediocrity that showcases the advancement of effects while exposing its storytelling shortcomings.
Chris Hewitt, Empire
[O]ut goes the scalpel-sharp satire, in comes hammer-heavy swipes at US foreign policy…. Out goes the gut-busting violence, replaced by undercooked, over-CGed action scenes…. No heart, no balls, no funny bone.