Sci-fi/Action, 117 Minutes, 2014
You can’t review this movie without comparing it to the classic 1987 original [IMDB]. Directed by Paul Verhoeven [IMDB], the original was a brutally violent action flick that hid a disturbingly snarky satirical commentary on modern society (a formula he would leverage again 10 years later in “Starship Troopers” [IMDB]). This reboot? Well, it’s very pretty.
Being pretty isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The remake has an undeniable polish that the original lacked. The effects, the sets – even to some extent, the script and acting – are clearly top-shelf quality and surpass the original. It’s just that the movie has no, for lack of a better word, balls.
The stories are similar. A dedicated, moral cop, Alex Murphy, is killed in the line of duty and his body used to construct a crime-fighting cyborg. In the original the death scene is three solid minutes long. It’s a direct encounter between Murphy and the antagonist (along with several of his henchmen). They mock him, laugh at him, torture him cruelly and, finally, gruesomely gun him down. When he still fails to die, the villain himself puts a graphically rendered bullet through his head and leaves laughing.
In the remake, Murphy is blown up by a car bomb. The scene is about 12 seconds long. It gets the job done, in a perfectly valid, totally sterile, studio-friendly, pandering-for-a-PG-13 way. The rest of the movie is the same. It looks great and works well (enough). It also deserves praise for giving the sadly underutilized Michael Keaton [IMDB] a decent amount of screen time. It also, absolutely, has no balls.
It’s not surprising that a movie would be purposefully castrated to hit a rating target. That’s the way of the world when you’re spending $100 million of somebody else’s money. It’s not surprising, but it is a god-damn shame.