Directed By: José Padilha

Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle, and Jay Baruchel

I'm very much looking forward to many of the blockbusters in 2014.  It's not that Hollywood is breaking new ground, but they are revisiting many of the franchises that have brought us movie magic for generations.  Who can turn down a showdown between Godzilla, the King of the Monsters, and Heisenberg, a meth monster?  I doubt many would shy away from Caesar taking us one step closer to a modern take on Franklin J. Schaffner's Planet of the Apes.  Let's not forget that the summer season will be kicked off by some comic book characters with whom we're all very familiar in the follow-ups to The Amazing Spider-Man and X-Men: First Class.  All in all, 2014 is a very retro year for big budget cinema.  This weekend, José Padilha is revisiting the RoboCop franchise and putting a fresh spin on everyone's favorite Detroit PD officer.

Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson), host of the news program The Novak Element, doesn't understand why America is so robo-phobic.  After all, America promotes safety and security elsewhere in the world with militarized robots.  Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) would like nothing more than to bring his company OmniCorp's products stateside, but the people stand in his way.  The embodiment of the people's will is the Dreyfuss Act, a piece of legislation heralded by Senator Dreyfuss (Zach Grenier) that bars robots from being used in the United States for law enforcement purposes.  With this major political obstacle, Sellars eventually arrives at the conclusion that the people want a product with a conscience, something a machine on its own lacks.  The OmniCorp CEO decides that he's going to put a man inside of a machine and give the people a figure behind which they can rally.  To do so, he's going to need the help of OmniCorp's Chief Scientist Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman).

In order to build this prototype cyborg, OmniCorp is going to need a willing candidate.  That person is ideally someone who has a permanent, severe injury but is mentally stable enough to deal with the hell through which they're going to put him.  For OmniCorp, that individual is Detroit police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman).  Alongside his partner Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams), Murphy has been secretly investigating crime boss Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow).  Ruffling some feathers in Vallon's organization and the Detroit PD in doing so, Murphy soon finds himself the victim of a car bomb.  With his wife Clara's (Abbie Cornish) consent, a fatally wounded Alex is resuscitated by Dr. Norton and trained by OmniCorp military tactician Rick Mattox (Jackie Earle Haley).  From here, a new American hero RoboCop is born, and the nation has its first chance to overcome its robo-phobia.

There's no doubt that José Padilha modernizes RoboCop.  Perhaps, he even corrects some of the missteps of the original series.  He creates a sleek, edgy Detroit consistent with the taste of the average moviegoer in 2014.  He gives a more realistic and nuanced origin story that explores Murphy's psychological underpinnings and simplifies the big evil corporation OmniCorp into something much more relatable today.  Padilha even puts a modern spin on the need for robots in law enforcement that doubles as a nice jab at America's imperial foreign policy.  There's no doubt that Padilha gives us a fresh take on RoboCop that pays dividends.

Though he modernizes the tale, Padilha gives us a surprisingly retro take on the story of Alex Murphy at the same time.  He revives the old, bombastic RoboCop theme that screams the 1980s at us.  He gives us Samuel L. Jackson wearing a bad wig as the outlandish host of The Novak Element.  Padilha even brings back the original Batman Michael Keaton as the conniving OmniCorp CEO Richard Sellars.  Ultimately, these throwback creative choices by Padilha foster a satirical undertone that really harkens back to what made the original RoboCop so fun.  With these decisions, he's taking some rather amusing jabs at the corporate media machine, our easily corrupted notions of justice, and society at large.

For an action movie relegated to a February release date, RoboCop boasts a solid cast.  For his part as the titular character, Joel Kinnaman gives a straightforward, noble performance.  Though he mostly gives us an honest cop, he does delve into some more emotionally complex territory as he grapples with life without his own body.  In his role as Murphy's savior and OmniCorp's Chief Scientist Dr. Dennett Norton, the chameleon-like Gary Oldman gives us the film's moral conscience.  Though he dabbles in the dark side, it's abundantly clear where his sentiments lie throughout the film.  For his part as OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars, Michael Keaton gives a slick performance.  His low-key demeanor underscores a subtly devilish interpretation of the character.  In her part as Murphy's wife Clara, Abbie Cornish brings warmth and emotion to the film every time she's on screen.  She gives the film its humanity.  Lastly, Samuel L. Jackson gives quite an entertaining performance as media elitist Pat Novak.  He gives us a mild caricature of Faux News, which is still quite caustic.

I never thought that we needed a new RoboCop, but I certainly don't mind that he's here cleaning up the streets of Detroit once again.  With smart, creative direction from José Padilha, solid performances from his ensemble cast, and plenty of enjoyable action sequences, I have no doubt that we'll be seeing this reborn hero back on the big screen again in the not-too-distant future.  All I can say is that I'm looking forward to it.  RoboCop gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Have a couple of rounds of beer with this one.