Fan-favorite Michael Kenneth Williams is negotiating to join the cast of José Padilha’s RoboCop reboot. The actor will break from his tradition playing men who subscribe to a strict moral code (but live on the wrong side of the law) on HBO’s The Wire and Boardwalk Empire, by tackling the role of a Detroit police officer and Alex J. Murphy’s partner in the Padilha film.
Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) is taking over for Peter Weller as Alex Murphy, while Williams is filling the shoes previously worn by Nancy Allen in the original RoboCop movie trilogy. The latter is working on Twelve Years a Slave, Steve McQueen’s followup to his critically-acclaimed NC-17 drama Shame. Williams will thereafter join the RoboCop crew for the beginning of principal photography in Toronto next month.
Heat Vision describes Williams’ RoboCop character as someone “who is tight with Murphy’s family.” Previous reports indicate that Murphy’s grieving partner begins a relationship with his wife (Abbie Cornish) after Murphy is savagely attacked in the line of duty, verges on the precipice of death – and re-emerges a remarkable fusion of man and machine, thanks to the efforts of an OmniCorp scientist (Gary Oldman). That sets the stage for the film’s central conflict, as the cyborg Murphy desperately clings to his lingering traces of humanity despite the wishes of his conglomerate overlord (Hugh Laurie).
Padilha describes the dramatic essence of his RoboCop reboot as “a man being turned into a product by a corporation” and indicates his film updates the Reagan-era political atmosphere of Paul Verhoeven’s original 1987 sci-fi movie for a post-9/11 context. The second coming of RoboCop still features the satirical elements of its predecessor, but pushes Murphy’s existential dilemma to the forefront. It’s a thoughtful approach that’s helped in attracting excellent acting talent to Padilha’s (semi)controversial remake.
The RoboCop movie franchise has been out of commission for nearly twenty years, ever since RoboCop 3 opened to poor reviews and weak returns at the box office. It’s one of three major sci-fi properties established by Verhoeven, alongside Total Recall and Starship Troopers. A remake of the former is in theaters, while the latter is in the process of getting a gentler facelift. Total Recall 2.0 carries over elements from its ancestor, but is overall an independent creation (see our Total Recall: 2012 vs 1990 vs… 1966 breakdown).
RoboCop (the reboot), by comparison, updates the social issues of Verhoeven’s film, but functions as more of an alternate take on the same subject matter – examining such relevant matters as the increasingly centralized role technology occupies in millions of people’s lives (and how that affects their perception of the world). Fans are slowly warming to the idea; whether or not moviegoing masses will turn out, remains to be seen.
The RoboCop supporting cast is rounded out by Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Earle Haley, and Jennifer Ehle, working from the latest script draft penned by James Vanderbilt (The Losers, Amazing Spider-Man).
Look for RoboCop to open in U.S. theaters on August 9th, 2013.