I reviewed the new-model RoboCop for Critic’s Notebook, a film which proves all over again that film reviewers and film critics do not have the same job. If a reviewer wants to conclude that José Padilha’s reboot is a passable way to spend a Saturday night, that’s up to them. For a critic not to note how the new version turns an overtly blue-collar victim hemmed in by his own conditioning into a noble knight on a motorbike, a new model lawman who gets around his problems by really putting his mind to it, is to leave the job half-done.

Listing all the things absent in the new version misses the point, which is that the old one could hardly be made now in the first place. The original isn’t even in my top three Paul Verhoeven films (a blatant reference to one which is crops up when New Robo rides on the back of a bucking ED-209), but compared to the reboot its willingness to delineate characters by concise gesture makes it practically Jonathan Swift. The new film, squarely of its moment, could certainly not have tackled Clarence Boddicker’s queasy kinkiness, and is inevitably, hilariously, chaste. If it attempted to contain a laden moment like the one where Kurtwood Smith sticks his fingers in a glass of wine and the beefy gangster in the plaid shirt with the thick bushy moustache drinks it anyway, the projector would explode.


February 12, 2014