RoboCop ★★★½

How hard must a film plant a tongue in its cheek for it to move out of the realm of homage into that of satire? This reboot seems to understand the campiness and cult characteristics of its predecessors, and harnesses these qualities in a new direction - one that’s pointedly topical and a lot of fun, without drifting entirely away from the more serious aspects that give its story weight. It’s a risky balance, but RoboCop seems to manage it far better than I could have expected.

Some performances (Sam Jackson, Michael Keaton, Jackie Earle Haley, Jay Baruchel) are heavily exaggerated, often to the point of comedy, while others (Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman) are played with a far more grounded tone that balances the film’s overall feel. All of these roles are excellently acted, and the ensemble is quite strong. It’s never entirely serious, and the sound design (RoboCop’s movements especially) and dialogue are constant reminders throughout the film that we should be taking this whole experience with a grain of salt, enjoying it for what it is - a fun ride.

There are some obvious faults with this crime-oriented action film, mainly that the action sequences never seem all that important or as grand as they could be. Meanwhile, the crime-solving aspects (especially the forensics) seem shoe-horned in with far too much convenience. The narrative also never lingers long enough on Murphy’s relationship with his family for it to be anything more than a side-story, which is a bit counter-productive to the motivations of the character. But the benefits of all of these faults are clear: the pacing remains brisk, and while the stakes are never really all that great, it’s somehow still a remarkably engaging ride.

Brave choices in soundtrack, which are refreshingly original and off-beat for action set-pieces, paired with cinematography and art direction that is beautiful without ever over-reaching stylistically, all make for a compelling, shiny new form for a series that would otherwise be dead. A perfect metaphor, actually.