Yeah, that relationship didn't last much longer, damn it!
RoboCop has been called "the ultimate Superhero movie", which it is in many ways... or would be if it weren't such an iconoclastic comic book revision. This bizarre mix of Knight in Shining Armor with Infinite Justice motif with Anti-Hero with spoofs of '80's excesses wrapped around bloody, non-comical '80's excesses manages to work in spite of its seemingly inaccessible subject matter and unapologetically over-the-top moments.
One of the bigger surprises is how well RoboCop manages to withstand the test of time, nearly twenty years after its release. This is surprising because of what RoboCop has to offer on the surface (let's face it, the title alone would be worthy of a drinking game had it not been a success). Like many movies I am relentlessly critical of, the 1980's are written all over this film in both the subtext and the stylings, in spite of the fact that the setting is "The Future" (not too distant, but not here yet either). Entertainment Tonight's Leeza Gibbons actually appears in full on teased, bleached coif as a news anchor, and her "'80's hair" is far from alone here. This story of "The Future of Law Enforcement" features the remarkably cutting edge, space-age, futuristic Cop Vehicle known as... the '87 Ford Taurus. The Cold War is in full swing, and it shows, and there are actual spoofs of individual over-the-top events of the '80's. It's also packed with some very convincing, yet now out-of-date special effects, including, but not limited to, Stop-Motion-Animation. Further, this is firmly placed in both the Sci-Fi genre and the Action/ Adventure category that brought us The Terminator, Predator and any number of Stallone flicks.
And still it works. Credit could be given to the fact that RoboCop never takes itself too seriously. The script by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner is packed with humorous asides and in-jokes (many in the form of TV Commercials) that not only take a sharp mind to catch but also breaks up the ultraviolence into a tolerable story. The juxtaposition of the black comedy with the serious tragic themes makes for less of a disjointed experiment and more of a well-balanced whole, mostly thanks to director Paul Verhoeven. Verhoeven never allows this movie to become a parody and not only pulls out some excellent pathos from the title character, but keeps even the most sanctimonious lines and crazed situations to be taken seriously.
That is also thanks to a fine cast, led by Peter Weller. Weller's Officer Alex J. Murphy has recently been transferred to a police precinct in "Old Detroit". In this time, however, the Police are run by a corporation called Omni Consumer Products ("OCP"), which is safe inside the cleaned up downtown known as "Delta City". Meanwhile "Old Detroit" is overrun by crime and gangs like the one Leon Nash (Ray Wise) and Emil Antonowsky (Paul McCrane) belong to. The one led by the disturbingly sadistic crime boss Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith).
Murphy's up for a hell of a first day as he and his new partner Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) trail the ruthless gang back to their hideout where Murphy is tortured and finally shot in the brain.
The End... right? Not... even... close... BUD!
Thanks to an OCP Release Form, Murphy's remains are now "Product", and are "volunteered" for a new program in the company surrounding "Urban Pacification". OCP's CEO (played by Dan O'Herlihy, but identified only as The Old Man) is interested in this almost solely for profit. His Senior President Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) has presented the monstrous "Enforcement Droid" chrome robot the ED-209 (represented by puppets and stop motion characters, but voiced by Executive Producer Jon Davison). When this proves to be problematic and unpredictable at best, rival executive Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) presents "RoboCop". Morton's project is approved and Murphy gets his new assignment. On one hand, Murphy's credibility as an Undercover is shot (I'm not even sure a fedora and trench coat would fit over that body). On the other hand... he'll never have to ask for Backup again!
But as this new Cyborg Policeman is deployed in Murphy's old Precinct, Lewis and her boss (Robert DoQui's Sergeant Warren Reed) begin to notice familiar things about this new guy. RoboCop's ultra-serious, by-the-book and humorously emotionless forays into the underworld of "Old Detroit" slowly evolve into a vendetta from this "Frankenstein of Flesh" against the men who "killed" him. Once that seed is planted, Murphy begins to resurface and the mystery begins to unravel.
RoboCop is a very violent movie, which may be hard to take for many. It does, however, fit in well with the theme that is presented here. Not just surrounding a supercop, but the overall satire of Corporate Greed, Drugs, Police and Excess that all end up being inexorably linked together. The fact that there is so much humanity left in this movie is what makes it more than just a rip-roaring action flick. Weller's performance delves occasionally into the overly expressive, but only at rare (and sensible) times. In most cases, he handles the human cop well, he handles the cold, steel android well and he handles the divided mixture of the two beautifully. There are a couple of scenes in the second half worth every ounce of attention. RoboCop's battle with his ferocious adversary leaves his armor scarred and his faceplate cracked. The one tired and scared eye peering from the visor speaks volumes. Further, as RoboCop looks upon Murphy's face under that visor, the pathos is tangible, especially as he tries to recall Murphy's wife and son.
All this is aided by the rousing score by Basil Poledouris, who matches the extremes of RoboCop note-for-note in rousing militaristic themes. He also handles the emotional side of the film, granting us a solid and balanced score from the first moment to the final battle.
And what a Finale it is. Make no mistake, this is definitely one for Action Fans. The fact that there is still enough intelligence and depth here was, and is, the real surprise. It's almost impossible not to root for this Superhero in Shining Armor, regardless of what phase he's in. He's funny, yes, he's robotic and cold, of course, but he's also surprisingly well rounded, and comes off much more (after the paced introduction) as "Alex Murphy" than an Omni Consumer Product.
It's one to see if you can handle a film like this. It's not for the squeamish, it's not for those only looking for action or only looking for a sweet, smart story. It's the whole package and is, in many respects, a worthy descendant of Frankenstein. In short... I'll buy that for a dollar! Four Stars out of Five for RoboCop. Surprised? It really is that good! It's over the top, it's got its cheesy moments, but look here... we're talking about a movie called "RoboCop" about a Robo... Cop... the fact that this movie is anything but a one-dimensional stock gag should tell you something right there. Take it for the mixture it is. You have twenty seconds to comply! Thank you for your cooperation, good night and see you in the next reel.