starring Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson
screenplay by Joshua Zetumer, based on the screenplay by Edward Neumeier & Michael Miner
directed by José Padilha
by Walter Chaw There's a scene at the end of José Padilha's RoboCop reboot where nearly-widowed Clara Murphy (Abbie Cornish), nervous about being reunited with her nearly-murdered husband, Det. Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), takes care to put on makeup and something nice. (For me, Cornish trying to get prettier is like a tree trying to get tree-ier.) Padilha lingering here tells me a lot about both him and a film that doesn't touch the Verhoeven original, of course (few movies could, just in terms of sheer force of personality), but does care about developing its relationships, if not necessarily its characters. It reminded me of the kind of helpless love I feel when my wife tries to dress it up for me--I mean, honey, you don't have to do that. It's human, in other words, and if the franchise--a subgenre of machine/man existentialism--is about anything, it's about the difference between the little moments that make us human and all the other ones that align us more closely with machines. You could go deeper and describe it as an Apollonian/Dionysian thing--a mind/body dichotomy, the marriage of Heaven and Hell and on and on; or you could simply look at RoboCop as a pretty good action flick with lots of PG-13 fatalities that features more than its share of good actors in supporting roles as familiar action-movie staples. It's clear after the half-way point that that's what it's really aspiring to be. Either way, it manages a few times to make a case for this mythos to be, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, one of those things each generation should consider adapting to their particular dysfunctions. It's no satirical masterpiece, no Grand Guignol exercise, but as slight entertainment, there's some meat on the bone.