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The Hollywood Reporter

‘RoboCop’: What the Critics Are Saying

By Ashley Lee

February 12, 2014

Hoping to seduce men over the long Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day weekend, Jose Padilha‘s reboot of RoboCop opened Wednesday, after taking nearly a decade to make. The sci-fi remake from Sony and MGM stars Joel Kinnaman as police officer Alex Murphy, alongside Abbie CornishMichael KeatonGary Oldman and Samuel L. Jackson, and opens 27 years after Paul Verhoeven‘s original debuted.

Based on prerelease trackingRoboCop is on pace to gross $28 million for the four-day weekend, and $35 to $38 million for the six-day timeframe — which may not be enough to dethrone The Lego Movie. RoboCop is, however, pacing ahead of fellow weekend releases About Last NightEndless Love and Winter’s Tale.

Read a sampling of what top critics are saying below:

The Hollywood Reporter film critic Leslie Felperin reviewed it as “a solid piece of mainstream entertainment” that honors the original, yet creatively revamps the core half-man, half-machine cop-hero conceit with new subplots and less-troubling political allegory. “It’s as if someone took an original Macintosh and packed it 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, but that shouldn’t stop people from spending a dollar (or 15) on the remake — especially given the lack of competition.”

The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis called the film “a nicely cast, respectable remake” that “is less the struggle between man and machine than between the original’s pop nihilism and the bottom-line commercialism driving this new vehicle.” The review also noted that the remake is missing a point of view and has action scenes that feel more like visuals found in a violent video game.

STORY: The Many, Many Post-Movie Lives of RoboCop

The Boston Globe‘s Ty Burr agreed, reviewing it as “an acceptable, muscle-bound B-movie whose handful of fresh plot twists are drowned out by gunfire and dull action choreography. It has a great supporting cast, a flavorless lead actor, and some notions about free will that aren’t nearly as original or well-developed as screenwriter Joshua Zetumer thinks. But the film doesn’t embarrass itself or dishonor its predecessor.”

Yet the Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Phillips highlighted the distinct ambition of Padilha’s version, which is also the director’s first English-language feature. “The script includes some interesting ideas about the researchers struggling to get RoboCop’s medication doses at the right level, so he retains enough of his human side to be relatable to the public. This is at heart a pretty sad movie. Verhoeven wouldn’t be caught dead making you care about anything in his RoboCop; Padilha is after something different.”

And the Washington Post‘s Ann Hornaday did praise Kinnaman, who “plays Murphy with convincing melancholy and conviction. And when the visor comes down on his bionic body armor, his lower face bears a striking resemblance to Peter Weller, who so memorably originated the role.” Still, she added that the plot’s conflict “never feels high-stakes” as the film pursues a franchise fate “with much of its potential vaguely unrealized, like one of Murphy’s phantom limbs.”

Twitter: @cashleelee