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dir Jose Padilha
scr Joshua Zetumer, Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner
prd Marc Abraham, Brad Fischer, Eric Newman
with Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Samuel L Jackson, Jackie Earle Haley, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel, Michael K Williams, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Aimee Garcia, Douglas Urbanski
release UK 7.Feb.14, US 12.Feb.14
14/US MGM 1h58
Are you my maker? Kinnaman and Oldman
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
A loud and fierce production style makes this remake feel much more thrilling than it actually is. The truth is that the action never quite gets our pulses racing, because the script fails to create characters we can identify with. It merely looks whizzy and cool, passably entertaining but oddly forgettable.
While Omnicorp executive Sellars (Keaton) grapples with Congress about allowing robots to patrol American streets, US drone-bots maraud through the streets of Iran, "keeping the peace". Then Sellars has an idea: put a man into the robot and he can get around the law. His guinea pig is the almost dead Murphy (Kinnaman), who is rebuilt to the highest specs by Doctor Norton (Oldman) and trained by Mattox (Haley) to be a literal fighting machine. And when Murphy's emotions get in the way, they can chemically adjust his personality.
The question of whether Murphy is man or machine is never an issue because the filmmakers never allow even a hint of moral ambiguity. Since Murphy is the designated hero, he only does nasty things when he's being controlled by the greedy Sellars, with media-trained spokesperson (Ehle), marketing hot-shot (Baruchel) and rabid right-wing TV host (Jackson) pulling various strings. Each character has exactly one personality trait (Cornish fares worst as Murphy's perpetually worried wife).
Within this simplistic structure the actors deliver performances that are at least fun to watch, working to find flickers of humanity wherever they can. Oldman shines as the most complex character, the only person who has to make any sort of moral decision. Everyone else fills their particular space nicely, augmented by flashy effects and Padilha's muscular direction, zippy editing and oddly loud sound mix. You'd almost need to shout to be heard above the noise of Murphy's gears and joints.
In the end, it's impossible to escape the fact that the film is more intriguing than it is exciting. The ideas have the potential to make us think, but we never properly engage with what's at stake personally for these people. And ultimately the most fascinating thing about the movie is the way Padilha manages to make such a strong comment on America's bullheaded rush to militarily control the world while pretending that everyone is happy about it.
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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