RoboNono & Elite Squad – The Enemy Within

I had a FREE ticket (my favorite kind of ticket) to go see the Robocop remake/reboot.

Robocop

 

Robocop (2014) – Rated PG-13

In 2028 Detroit, when Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) – a loving husband, father and good cop – is critically injured in the line of duty, the multinational conglomerate OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer.

One Line Review: Ho hum Robo redo is a RoboNono.

In spite of its arrival in the February movie dumping grounds, I was looking forward to the Robocop reboot. The director, Jose Padilha, made two police movies, Elite Squad and Elite Squad: The Enemy Within in his home country of Brazil. Both were exciting thrillers that were also indictments of the Brazilian justice system and the inherent corruption in government.

Obviously the first telling sign is Robocop’s February release. Clearly the studio did not believe in the film. The second telling sign is the teen-friendly PG-13 rating. Not only were the original’s dark humor and brutal violence prime selling points but the bad Robocop movie was Robocop 3, the only one not rated R.

There are a number of nods to the original film. Basil Poledouris’ bombastic score from the original is utilized in a couple scenes but is very toned down. The ED-209s do put in an appearance. A few of the original one-liners are present but lack any punch.

Some of the things that made Jose Padilha’s earlier movies fascinating are ultimately what doom Robocop. The Elite Squad films are a cross between police thrillers and documentaries. The documentary nature of the films helps bring the differences between Brazilian and U.S. justice systems to light.

Unfortunately the same approach is applied to Robocop. There is waaaaaaay too much exposition. The film holds your hand and carefully explains everything that is happening. Every time the film starts to get moving, another clunky bit of exposition grinds momentum to a halt.

I have to lay the vast majority of the blame at the feet of first-time writer Joshua Zetumer. He took a wonderfully interconnected original script that was not only exciting but full of incredible dark, albeit sometimes juvenile, humor and stripped out the excitement and humor. In place of the humor, he tried to update Robocop to the current drone age. There are some interesting ideas but he forgot one of the first rules of screenwriting, never state something when you can show it. He also dropped one of the core ideas from the original: that politics, business, and organized crime are all interconnected.

Joel Kinnamon is just fine as Alex Murphy but isn’t given much to do. Samuel L. Jackson’s angry news commentator schtick grows old quickly and is much too on the nose to be funny. Jackie Earle Haley provides the film’s only bit of comic relief via a song. Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman are completely wasted.

Robocop is not awful. It is just drearily by-the-numbers by people who had no understanding of what made the first one a wonderful film. Don’t buy that for a dollar!

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is currently available on instant Netflix. Go watch that instead (as long as you don’t mind subtitles).

Elite Squad Enemy Within

 

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010) – Not rated

Tenente-Coronel Nascimento, a hardened vet of Rio de Janeiro’s drug wars, is now head of a special police unit. With his new title comes new responsibilities and dangers, which the captain navigates with brashness and resolve.

Air Force One – Do Not Get on That Plane week

This is Do Not Get on That Plane week. Air Force One is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Air Force One (1997) – Rated R for Violence.

“Harrison Ford stars in this high-stakes thriller set in the skies aboard Air Force One, in which Russian terrorists (led by Gary Oldman) conspire to hijack the aircraft with the president and his family on board. The commander in chief finds himself facing an impossible predicament: give in to the terrorists and sacrifice his family, or risk everything to uphold his principles — and the integrity of the nation. Glenn Close co-stars.”

Wolfgang Petersen is an excellent director. He made the classic Das Boot – a film that wonderfully detailed the harrowing and claustrophobic life of a U-Boat crew. He then came to Hollywood and then made the thrillers In the Line of Fire and Outbreak. While Das Boot is clearly his best, this film is probably his second best. Unfortunately he has had some misfires recently (Troy, Poseidon).

As with any good modern action movie, this one begins with an action setpiece. In this case, we have a rapid high-tech snatching of General Radek (Jurgen Prochnow, star of Das Boot).

It is quite difficult to discuss this film without mentioning the obvious influence of Tom Clancy. This thriller is exciting and full of action without being dumbed down. It features (then) state-of-the-art technology and its use by both heroes and villains. These are all Clancy hallmarks.

In addition the film is extremely jingoistic, another Clancy hallmark. Go America!

Harrison Ford is just right here. He is old enough to carry the gravity of the President of the United States while being young enough that his heroics are not outside the realm of possibility.

Gary Oldman chews up the scenery as the hijacker trying to trade for General Radek. He is quite fun to watch. I am quite glad that he learned to tone down his performances when he portrayed Gordon in the two most recent Batman movies.

Glenn Close plays our first female vice-president (Sorry Hilary!), Kathryn Bennett. I know, I know that is as unrealistic as the thought of our ever having a person of color in the White House (they do not call it the White House because of the paint job).

She and Dean Stockwell (as Defense Secretary Dean) have a fun time sparring both with each other and Gary Oldman.

Backing the President up on the plane are Paul Guilfoyle (Captain Brass from CSI) as Chief of Staff Shepherd and the always wonderful William H. Macy as Major Caldwell.

Air Force One was nominated for two Oscars. One was for sound (Con Air was also nominated) and the other for film editing. Titanic won both of them.

Unlike Con Air yesterday, I have no qualms about recommending this intelligent exciting thriller. For those of you watching this on set top boxes, Air Force One is in high definition.

People Watch: Look for Xander Berkeley (George Mason on 24) as Secret Service agent Gibbs. It is a little funny to see him in this as a fair amount of the plot here is recycled later in 24.