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.

Elite Squad – The Enemy Within

Elite Squad – The Enemy Within is currently available on instant Netflix

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.”

“People are all alike. They protect their interests.”

First I have to confess that I have not seen the original film, Elite Squad by Jose Padilha. It is not currently available on instant Netflix. If it shows up I look forward to watching it as I very much enjoyed Elite Squad: The Enemy Within.

The first fifteen minutes of Elite Squad – The Enemy Within is quite riveting as it details a hostage situation at a prison. Unfortunately, as with Saving Private Ryan, Enemy Within cannot keep up this level of tension. What Enemy Within does convey, in almost every frame, is a pervasive system of corruption. It doesn’t seem to be a question of whether or not someone is corrupt but to what degree they are corrupt.

Our main character Lt. Colonel Nascimento is the former leader of ‘The Skulls”, basically Rio’s SWAT division. He is played quite well by Wagner Moura and, while honest, is a complex character. Padilha has him doing a voiceover during the movie a la a private detective. I’m not sure what to think of it but you do have to pay a lot of attention to this film (and the subtitles) so a voiceover is handy if a little heavy-handed.

Talk about your police brutality. One of the drug dealers is questioned with a plastic bag over his head and is ultimately simply murdered by the cops. There is a character captured snooping around and the next thing we see is that character being interrogated in a room where there are two other people already dead. That sent a shiver up my spine. There is a nice segue from teeth being removed from a skull (to prevent identification) to a character cracking open a soft-boiled egg.

Director Jose Padilha shows us a story of relentless corruption. The cops are regularly paid off and when the drug dealers don’t pay them enough, they are eliminated. This leaves a vacuum which the police are only too happy to fill. The focus here is on police corruption but includes media complicity, bureaucratic indifference, and political maneuvering as well.

All of the maneuverings are punctuated with quite a bit of action and violence. It appears that Padilha’s job is more to entertain than to inform but this does appear to be an indictment of Rio’s government. I’m not familiar with the politics of the region to comment further but this is an entertaining ride.

Up Next: As with many successful foreign directors, Jose Padilha has come to Hollywood. He is in the process of making the Robocop reboot with The Killing’s Joel Kinnamon as the titular enforcer.