by Rob Outterside
WARNING: May contain spoilers.
Paul Verhoeven’s gore splattered, double fisted 1987 sci-fi action original is one of my all time favourites, and, helmed by José Padilha, it has been re-tooled for our times!
Detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is horrifically wounded in a car bombing when his investigation leads him too close to a local crime lord and his web of bent cops. Believing it to be the only way to get him back, his wife gives her consent for him to be augmented with experimental technology. He’s finally turned into a Robo-zombie when his biological half repeatedly gets in the way of total machine like efficiency – but what went before won’t be done away with that easily and soon his memory reasserts itself, leaving Murphy confused with what he has become and what it means for his family, trying to solve his own attempted murder and struggling to survive his manufacturers attempts to shut him down when they realise he’s more use as a martyr then as an idol.
While the film was in production I did hear talk of how this film was intended as a reboot of the series as opposed to a repeat of the original, and I was initially sceptical. I can see now original content has been tweaked to make it more relevant and the film is the better for it. Michael Keaton is great as the Steve Jobs style “don’t think of me as your manager, think of me as your best mate” evil corporation mega baron – all jeans and woolly tops (I think he only wears a suit once in the entire film). I kept thinking how good it would have been to have Peter Weller take the role but, in the end, dismissed the idea since having him go face to face with his own character would likely have caused some disturbance in the fabric of unreal space, opening a singularity that would have sucked in me and all the other film goers.
But I did feel the lack of a really strong baddie, which the original had without a shadow of a doubt with Kurtwood Smith’s Clarence Boddicker and Mattox (Jackie Earle Haley) and Vallon (Patrick Garrow) in this film don’t come close to replacing him.
What else is there without it? Alex Murphy’s struggle to come to terms with what he’s become for one thing, is it possible to be a cyborg killing machine and a dad? – and Joel Kinnaman does put this across well, especially in one (to me anyway) gruesome scene when he’s shown all that’s left of his body. If you want a percentage its barely pushing double digits – Adam Jensen has it lucky really. I’ll say no more.
So it’s a good film and the right call was made to use the original only as a template, instead of just copying it. The lead performances are all solid and there’s certainly enough on screen action to have you feeling you got your money’s worth. And its quite possible for one enamoured of the original ( one such as myself ) to enjoy it. If you’ve not seen the original then as a matter of urgency you must do so – but this one can still be enjoyed as a “stand alone”.