Saturday, September 30, 2023


February 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

For the most part, reviews of the MGM/Sony remake of 1987’s Robocop appear so ambivalent and lukewarm that the Rotten Tomatoes website, which is always fairly generous when it comes to rating reviews either “fresh” or “rotten,” could have comfortably assigned a rotten rating to some that it rated fresh — and vice versa. Take, for example, Manohla Dargis’s review in the New York Times, which the website awards a fresh rating. To be sure, Dargis finds that Brazilian director José Padilha “handles the smaller-scale action scenes in Robocop competently, if unremarkably, and the closer he gets to the actors, the better.” But she goes on to criticize his handling of the big action sequences. “The only notable feature of these bludgeoning, enervating segments,” she writes, “s how thoroughly they undercut the story’s nominal — or maybe just cynical — insistence on valorizing the human factor.” Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune (another fresh review) acknowledges “There’s a lot to enjoy here,” but adds, “though the brutality is very rough for a PG-13 rating.” He criticizes Padilha’s “familiar shaky-cam style that might be called early NYPD Blue, adding, “That I can do without.” He then concludes: “But unlike the recent, empty-headed Total Recall remake, for example, this movie comes at you with an idea or two.” On the other hand, Rotten Tomatoes slaps a rotten rating on Ann Hornaday’s review in the Washington Post, although she writes that the movie “manages to meet expectations without exceeding them.” She compliments the cast for its ability to convey “gravitas and parodic humor.” But she concludes: “For all its playfulness, the new RoboCop can’t help but lack the novelty of the original’s jolting mixture of dumb-smart irony and visceral pulp.” Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times (another rotten review) comments that the film’s “above average script” struggles “to gain traction against the action.” Rafer Guzmán (yet another rotten) gives the cast props for “surprisingly well-acted” performances, but he goes on to say that the movie “is missing a crucial ingredient: fun.” Ty Burr in the Boston Globe (another rotten) describes it as “an acceptably muscle-bound B-movie” and concludes dully, “The film doesn’t embarrass itself or dishonor its predecessor, which is something.” Then there’s Chris Vognar’s review (fresh) in the Dallas Morning Review, in which he calls the movie “a competent reimagining that trades the original’s garish charm for moral shades of gray and the usual action blockbuster noise. Let’s face it; this could have been a soulless, unmitigated disaster of an action knockoff. The fact that it never sinks to that level seems like at least a moral victory, if you’re into that sort of thing. … The bad news: Expect sequels if it does well.” Kyle Smith in the New York Daily News (fresh) is one of the few critics who compares the movie favorably with the original. “The remake is something quite different: thoughtful, grounded, more interested in questions of free will and emotions versus technology than it is in goofy satire,” he remarks. And Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle also regards the movie as an “upgrade” on the original. “It’s a reimagining that responds to everything that has changed in American life over the past 27 years, addressing new threats and exploiting new anxieties,” he writes.