Sunday, 11 May 2014
Blu-ray Review: Robocop 2014
In 1987, Paul Verhoeven's 'Robocop' assaulted cinema goer's with its savage, satirical vision of future law enforcement. Now, the ubiquitous remake train has arrived at this particular station, with the action remaining in Detroit but taking place in the year 2028. With almost every country in the world using robots to wipe out crime, America maintains its robophobic stance, thanks to the Dreyfus Bill which outlaws these crime fighting machines. Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) is determined to gain acceptance for his Robocop prototype, but needs a product the public will love: a product with a conscience, so why not put a man inside the machine? A being with emotions that knows right from wrong, and can identify with the people it is there to protect. Dr Morton (Gary Oldman) constructs the first Robot/man hybrid when police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) arrives at his clinic, the victim of a car bomb planted by accomplices of crime lord Antoine Valon. Murphy suffered 80% 4th degree burns and his lower spine was severed. Wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) and son reluctantly bid farewell for now, as Alex undergoes a change that will threaten to decimate this tight family unit.
Of course, the remake is, in many respects, a different animal to its illustrious predecessor. Gone are the bloody impact squibs of the original, replaced by toned-down conflict, though rest assured there are plenty of hi-tech gun battles on display. We also get a more agile Robocop this time round, boasting an increase in hardware and a Cruiser 1 motorbike which gets from A-Z at a speed of 248 mph. Murphy's family is also more prominent here, with his wife and young son part of an emotional tug of war with a powerful and ruthless corporation on the other end of the rope. Director Jose Padilha has constructed a tightly-wound action picture that works well in its own right, and he's helped by an excellent cast. Gary Oldman as the genius who never loses sight of the human being inside the machine; Michael Keaton emerging as a man you'll most surely love to hate, scheming and double-crossing in a film that's packed with police corruption, political agendas and some nifty action scenes. The character of Alex Murphy is beautifully portrayed by Joel Kinnaman, and do watch out for Samuel L. Jackson who keeps popping up as the propaganda-flinging presenter on Cable TV.
It's inevitable there will be fans of the original film who dislike the remake for a number of reasons - including its very existence - but I believe it will win over a fair percentage of would-be detractors and certainly gain a new generation of fans who have yet to see Verhoeven's movie. 'Robocop 2014' is an intelligent, fast-paced modern action film, with some great chase sequences through rain-drenched neon-lit Detroit streets, impressive visual effects and ferocious gun battles: check out the frenetic training session where Robocop attempts to repel a crack squad led by odious Rick Mattox (Jackie Earle Hayley) which plays out perfectly to the strains of 'Hocus Pocus'. I hope those yet to see the original will seek it out, and that die-hard fans of Verhoeven's film will check out the remake. There is ample room for both to flourish.
Studio Canal's Blu-ray presentation offers a splendid incarnation of this film, with strong colours, nice inky blacks and the detail and clarity one would hope for from a recent cinema release.
The extras begin with 5 deleted scenes which run for a total of approximately 4 minutes. While it's debatable whether any of those scenes would have improved the finished product, it's particularly interesting to witness the Mayor of Detroit expressing concern over possible re-election and to see yet more PR spin at work. The second batch of extras take the form of 10 information segments which run for a total of approximately 3 minutes. Here, the M2 battle rifle, the amazing Cruiser 1 motorbike and the TSR handgun are amongst the technology under the spotlight, reminding us of the technology at Robocop's disposal.
'The Illusion Of Freewill' follows, being a 7m 46s featurette where director Jose Padilha reveals he asked to direct 'Robocop' after being offered several other films. Jose - a trained physicist - wanted to reach a broad audience with his film, and producer Eric Newman and production designer Martin Whist are also on hand to talk about this process.
'To Serve And Protect' runs for 6m 5s and focuses on the weapons at Robo's disposal. Joel Kinnaman reveals he underwent intensive firearm training, eventually being able to hit a 3ft target from 135 yards with a handgun. The design of the Cruiser 1 is also discussed; an important string to Robocop's bow that underwent many changes.
The final featurette is 'The Robocop Suit' and runs for 14m 54s. Here, key personnel (including Kinnaman) chat about important aspects such as freedom of movement, and their collective desire to remain respectful to the original; an ideal that runs through the entire film.