Robocop

William McClean’s Cult Movie Choice- ROBOCOP (1987)

PART man, part machine, all cop was the brilliant tagline to Paul Verhoeven’s 1987, Ultra violent, science fiction, action movie, Robocop, Certificate 18. Verhoeven’s film, which starred Peter Weller, as Alex Murphy, a Detroit city policeman brutally, killed by a criminal gang, resurrected as the cyborg protagonist of the feature, Robocop.

The film paints the bleak picture of a highly consumerist society, slowly descending into anarchy. The ruthless mega cooperation, Omni Consumer Products (OCP) have the real power within the city of Detroit, and construct the cyborg law enforcer to clean up the streets , to pave the way for their proposed new venture, the utopian city, Delta City. As OCP executive Richard ‘Dick’ Jones says about his company” We practically are the military, OCP has gambled in markets traditionally regarded as non-profit. Hospitals, prisons, space exploration. I say good business is where you find it.”

Not also is the feature, a brilliantly over the top action movie. But it is also a great social satire piece. Robocop the film’s hero, whose attempts to uphold the law, are usually much more violent than the crimes he is attempting to stop, memorably shooting a man in the groan throw a captive woman’s skirt to prevent a potential rape. The film is quite possibly one of the most violent film’s I’ve ever seen. Murphy’s death is particularly brutal and gory.

It wasn’t until I say this film in the late 1990’s late night on Irish TV channel, RTE, did I realize just how wonderfully violent it actually was. British broadcaster ITV cut many of the film’s more explicit sequences out for broadcast on television.

Verhoeven’s film also dabbles with high brow concepts like identity and even the existence of the soul. As Murphy’s memories and characteristics slowly return to him. Resurfacing amongst his programming. The slain police officer begins to dream, recalling memories of his wife and young son.

On top of all this Verhoeven’s film is filled with great characters and memorable dialogue. Including “Can you fly Bobby?” and “Dead or alive, your coming with me.” Every action movie needs great villains and they don’t come much better than Ronny Cox’s scheming OCP executive, Dick Jones.Kurtwood Smith,  is also truly menacing as the criminal kingpin, Clarence J. Boddicker.

It’s hard to imagine the actor as the father from the television show, That 70’s Show after seeing his performance in this feature. Warren DoQui is also fantastic as the cliché hard talking, Sergeant Warren Reed.

On the downside, some of the special effects do look dated now, in retrospect. Nancy Allen is as annoying a sidekick to Robocop as Robin is to Batman. The film was followed by two increasingly sub-standard sequels and a short lasting TV show.

Like so many classic 80’s features, Robocop is currently being remade. With the Killing’s Joel Kinnaman taking over the helmet from Peter Weller. The film is reported to have already acquired a strong principle cast, including Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman and Hugh Laurie playing the feature’s antagonist. The Jury will be out until the film’s release next year but the film will undoubtedly lack the violence and magic of the original.

Review by William McClean

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