There’s a reason why we keep coming back to these eighties classics. Actually, there are many reasons but more about that later. RoboCop is a completely unhinged, brutal, and yet also prophetic and highly intelligent science fiction action movie. It explores many issues like corporate greed, corruption, and ambition in a satirical and poignant way. It’s at the same time over-the-top violent and smart. The story takes place in a dystopian future where crime is rampant and corporations control almost everything. Wait a minute, I’m not sure whether this is the future or the present. Whatever the case is, it’s a fucked up world.
And in this fucked up world we find Alex Murphy, a righteous cop trying to make a difference. However, he soon ends up riddled with bullets and left for dead. Luckily, our corporate overlords are looking for a cop who’s almost dead to turn him into an unstoppable law-abiding criminal-shooting war machine: RoboCop. And so Alex Murphy begins his life anew, now half-machine, half-human, and a whole mean cop. RoboCop is Paul Verhoeven’s first Hollywood movie and he would go on to have a long and fruitful career that’s still holding fast. His next few movies along with this one would mark my teen years.
I’m talking about movies like Total Recall, Starship Troopers, and Showgirls. I guess I was too young to appreciate the quality that Basic Instinct offers. What RoboCop offers is just pure unadulterated violent fun. There will be not just a lot of black humor but also satire. The movie makes fun of just about anything and those quick TV breaks were a lot of fun. They made their way to Futurama with Morbo narrating the sudden death of humans with a cheeky smile. The action was utterly ruthless, graphic, and completely over-the-top. I mean, you would think that when our criminal gang shoots Murphy they would hit him just a couple of times. And you would be wrong.
They completely obliterate him firing more than 50 shots that eventually blow away his hands and legs. Most of the violence is so exaggerated that it’s comical. So, the entire movie has this black humor undertone. Even our main villain switches gears towards the end and becomes a joker. Clarence Boddicker is one crazy motherfucker. He’s played by none other than Kurtwood Smith whom you might remember as Red from That ’70s Show. Of course, Peter Weller also gave one hell of a performance, making us care about this tin can that supposedly doesn’t have emotions. And the rest of the cast did a terrific job too.
Who could forget two greedy corporate guys played by Ronny Cox and Miguel Ferrer? And what about feisty and cute Nancy Allen playing the tough cop Anne Lewis? She was a counterweight to all the testosterone in this movie. I also find it hilarious that when she first arrived at the shoot, Verhoeven was filming the deliberately cheesy It’s Not My Problem fake television show. Allen was horrified when she saw this thinking that this was going to be the tone for the entire movie. The more you think about RoboCop the more you realize it’s not a movie about a cybernetically enhanced cop but our society.
Our society that has become totally desensitized to death, crime and violence. This is a place where money rules everything and with money comes power. Verhoeven turned a script that had a lot of potential into a timeless masterpiece that we all keep coming back to. Each time I watch this movie, I discover something new. Sadly, I have to report that the stop-motion animation of the giant robot ED-209 did not age well. At least it has a certain nostalgic charm now, more than 30 years later. The practical effects are, however, top-notch. I expected nothing less from Rob Bottin (The Thing) and his team.
Of course, I highly recommend you watch the latest remastered version of the movie which looks absolutely phenomenal. You can see every little detail and they fucking matter. RoboCop is one of those movies where almost every scene counts and has something to say. Just take the one where Murphy is in the busy police locker room getting ready to head out. They’re talking about a possible strike, union, and one of their colleagues Frederickson, who’s been shot earlier. Sargent then calmly walks in and removes his name tag from the locker saying that they can donate to his widow.
This scene ends with Murphy closing his locker with his name tag prominently and ominously taking up the whole screen. Finally, I guess now is the perfect time to talk about the sequels. RoboCop 2 was watchable and I guess the same goes for the third and final part in the original trilogy although that’s already a full-blown B movie. The 2014 RoboCop reboot was good but entirely unnecessary and completely forgettable. You’re better off just rewatching the original or another eighties classic They Live. Dead or alive, you’re coming with me!
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Writers: Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner
Cast: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Kurtwood Smith, Ronny Cox, Miguel Ferrer, Ray Wise, Robert DoQui
Fun Facts: One of the most difficult scenes to film was the one where RoboCop catches the keys to his police cruiser. Since the hands and gloves of his RoboCop suit were made out of foam rubber, the car keys would constantly bounce off of them. It took more than 50 tries and an entire day of filming to get this one very short scene right.