Despite the eternal machinations of the Internet, we’d like to assume that you haven’t yet had the entirety of your attention span sucked from your inquisitive little head. Thus, we also assume you recall an article we published last week that both revealed Hugh Laurie’s departure from the upcoming, in-production RoboCop remake, as well as the rumor that Clive Owen might be taking his place. This morning however, we received word that Laurie’s villain role will instead be played by Michael Keaton.
Keaton will play the ultra-wealthy CEO of the greedy Omni Corp, which turns Detroit cop Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) into an unstoppable law enforcement cyborg for its own means. Director José Padilha announced the casting via a statement, saying “Michael is the final addition to the amazing cast we have assembled for this film and it is so great to have the last puzzle piece in place.”
Those of you who adore the original, 1987 version of RoboCop will likely know that this is more or less the same role portrayed by Ronny Cox. Presumably, you’ll also agree that Cox was excellent in the role. His performance blends moral flexibility, a politician’s practiced faux emotionality and an unapologetic, mile-long streak of intense greed. Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop, despite its gore and massive body count, is first and foremost a satire of 1980s American culture, and as such Cox’s character was something of a jab at the megalomaniacal suits who spent the decade accumulating frankly obscene wealth by exploiting every resource and person available to them. Granted, Michael Milken wasn’t sent to jail for attempting to privatize a major metropolitan police force via resurrected cybernetic Christ allegories, but then again, Verhoeven’s version is far more entertaining and thought provoking than the depressing reality that spawned it.
As far as Keaton’s casting in the role, we see this as a positive. Though he saw greatest acclaim in family-friendly films like Batman and Beetlejuice, Keaton is an excellent dramatic actor with an undeniable smirking charm. If you haven’t seen his work in 1989’s The Dream Team, you really ought to seek it out. Though it’s a comedy, Keaton shifts gears from humor to pathos often, and proves that he’s much more than just a pretty face. Actually, if you can set up a double bill with Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, you’ll get a pretty solid perspective on Keaton’s capabilities, and as far as we’re concerned “scenery chewing evil rich dude” is well within Keaton’s range.
Despite Keaton’s casting effectively completing the list of actors lined up for the RoboCop remake, we still don’t have much solid information on how this film is shaping up. We can speculate on actors, and compare them to their analogues in the original RoboCop, but until we hear some official information from this project we’re going to have to wait and wonder how well director Jose Padilha can match the efforts of Paul Verhoeven. Even if Padilha isn’t going to attempt to make his RoboCop a sweeping, razor-sharp satire of modern American values (read: violence, greed, reality TV — sadly, not much has changed since the 80s) he’s got a very high bar to reach with this film. And, needless to say, if he does attempt to ape Verhoeven entirely, Padilha had better be ready to bring his absolute best to the table. He hasn’t done anything to date that would definitely convince us that this remake will be awesome, so while we’re tentatively optimistic about this film, we aren’t about to take bets on how well Padilha may fare.