First, the bad news: In this RoboCop
, no bad guys get turned into walking piles of toxic waste and splattered across the hood of a car. It’s PG-13, after all. The good news is almost everything else. Don’t misread. This reboot doesn’t graze the 1987 original, in which Paul Verhoeven Trojan-horsed a wicked-sharp critique of American corporate fascism inside a gonzo sci-fi blow-’em-up and scored a massive hit. But if we forget the movie is called RoboCop
, what we’ve got is an above-average, large-scale Hollywood action flick. Director Jose Padilha dulls Verhoeven’s sociopolitical edges—odd, given that his kinetic Elite Squad
movies are fueled by righteous anger—and collapses the focus onto the plight of a man who becomes a literal puppet of a corrupt system. If you’ve ever wanted to see RoboCop cry, here’s your chance. Padilha, a Brazilian, misses the point of setting the film in Detroit, and the satire is concentrated entirely in Samuel L. Jackson’s wig. But there are surprisingly engaged performances from Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman and Jackie Earle Haley, high-velocity action sequences and some inspired visuals, in particular one involving star Joel Kinnaman stripped to the sum of his parts. Saying this is the second-best movie in the RoboCop
franchise might not mean much, but for a big-budget remake released in the dead zone of winter, it’s still an accomplishment.