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'RoboCop' reboot keeps original spirit alive, say Canuck co-stars

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TORONTO - The '80s classic "RoboCop" gets a movie makeover this week with a slew of modern-day visual effects, but the star of the film is still that heavily armoured suit, say two of the reboot's Canadian co-stars.

The beloved action flick returns Wednesday with Joel Kinnaman in the leading role of Alex Murphy, a critically injured cop who is transformed into a human-robot hybrid by a corporation bent on reinventing law enforcement.

As in the original, the action is set in a futuristic crime-ridden Detroit, with Alex serving as a reluctant prototype for OmniCorp's profit-driven plans.

Toronto-bred co-star K.C. Collins says performing opposite a fully encased Kinnaman — who was forced to wear a costume weighing roughly 20 kilograms — was "very intense" and "very intimidating."

"The suit is still the suit," says Collins, who plays a street-smart fellow cop.

"The suit is still hardware, it's tangible in this film, it's not something that's, like, throw a few (motion capture) dots or whatnot and then go create it on the computer. I was able to touch this suit, so that was pretty incredible."

As a fan of the original 1987 film, Collins says he was glad to be just as impressed with the eye-popping visuals as he was when he was a kid.

He recalled watching the film's Swedish star, best known in North America for starring in "The Killing," enter his trailer as a regular guy but emerge as a deadly machine.

"It was weird to see how one can be transformed in front of your eyes into a superhero," says Collins, who added that he had not yet seen the final film.

"That was incredible. We deal a lot with green screen and whatnot in this business, but to really see him put on this suit ... it was incredible. That was interesting for me as an actor who's seen a lot — to still be amazed. That's always the best feeling."

There are other robots on display as well — namely the two-legged, top-heavy ED-209 also seen in the original film, and a new humanoid foot soldier known as the EM-208.

The action takes place in 2028, but the science on display is all very plausible, says fellow Canuck co-star Patrick Garrow, who marvelled at advances in day-to-day technology since the original film debuted in 1987.

But despite all the cool tools on display, this is not just a blow-'em-up action flick, he adds, noting that the deeper social themes that endeared the first "RoboCop" to fans and critics alike were maintained.

He says Brazilian director Jose Padilha strove to touch on the same social, moral and political questions that bubbled under the surface of the Paul Verhoeven version, which starred Peter Weller.

"Sure, they were trying to make a movie that would entertain you — obviously it's a big blockbuster — but they also had lots of other things on their mind," says Garrow, who plays a villainous arms dealer.

"There are some very prescient themes that you inevitably touch on. What is it if a country sends robotic soldiers into battle? ... Should we roboticize policing?"

Collins, who splits his time between Toronto and Los Angeles, says this movie is meant to spark ideas.

"They make you think and dream and say, 'Wow, maybe one day that would be kind of cool' or 'That would be kind of terrible,' whatever the situation," says Collins, who also appears in the sci-fi series "Lost Girl."

The all-star cast includes Gary Oldman as the bionic engineer who creates RoboCop, Michael K. Williams as Alex's partner, Montreal's Jay Baruchel as OmniCorp's head of marketing and Samuel L. Jackson as a pro-robot TV pundit.

Garrow also appears in another big '80s remake due to hit theatres, "Poltergeist," which was also shot in Toronto. He joked that it wasn't that much of a coincidence to score gigs on remakes of two iconic films.

"Your chances are pretty good these days if you're doing features to be in a remake," he quipped, adding that he expected each film would draw fans of the originals.

"RoboCop" opens Wednesday.

Follow @cszklarski on Twitter.

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