Director/Actors: Directed by Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall, Basic Instinct), featuring Paul Weller (Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, Star Trek into Darkness) as Robocop, Kurtwood Smith (Red from That 70s Show) as a main scumbag Jones, and Ronny Cox and Miguel Ferrer as evil businessmen.
Plot: In a futuristic shit-hole Detroit, Police officer Alex Murphy transfers in, and is brutally gunned down on his first day. He is re-assembled as a prototype for a new lethal force for justice – Robocop.
• Director’s Cut? It’s 1hr 43m – about a minute of extra gore strewn throughout the film. Remastered for 4K? This is as good as a 1987 film will look! It retains the grain but sure the original contrast is intact, so it all looks a bit 80s, as it should!
• Did You Know? Stallone and Arnie were considered to be Robocop but Weller was chosen as he is quite slim & nimble, and able to move in the bulky suit much easier.
• It was originally Rated X, the addition of funny consumerist commercials before news bulletins were to lighten the mood in hopes of getting an R rating, as was removing death by Robocop’s very cool but ludicrous neural spike that works with only OCP computers.
• Robocop: human flesh combined with futuristic technology – like a face version of the Terminator. He’s a quintessential 80s hero – a white knight with unshakable morals. A Ricky Steamboat if you will. A cop that wears a helmet -so you can only see his mouth- is inspired by Judge Dredd. Did you know? They used the Terminator music in Robocop’s trailer. I love it. It was because the film’s score was still in production (there’s only one memorable piece in the film, Robocop’s theme which is repeated many times).
• Robocop has a tracking device and hides out in a broken brick building to gather his bearings and formulate a stand. The scene is STRAIGHT out of Total Recall (minus the nose-picking of course!).
Thoughts on the film:
• Big bang of 80s off the film, as expected! None more prevalent in the haircuts (esp. the TV anchorwoman), the use of stop-motion animation, buildings that are matte paintings, and of course, Robocop going into the Tech-Noir club complete with Nasty Boyz synth music. All of it great.
• The camerawork is functional, not pretty but it gets the job done. Some action scenes are cut and paste – go from close-up of shooting to dodgy-delayed dive from being shot over and over again. It’s very regular, no attempt at being arty (which is grand). The best is seeing Robocop’s shadow projected and magnified onto a wall to intimidate goons.
• Even before he’s Robocop, Murphy spouts out catchphrases (“Your move, creep!”, “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me!”). This works from a marketing perspective, an action figure perspective, and as a plot device (a goon recognises his catchphrase, leading Robocop to find out who he is).
• The town is overridden by crime and the mayor has privatised law enforcement to Omni Consumer Products (OCP). The plan is to gentrify the city; create a new yuppie utopia out of the rubble. This takes a complete back seat to spending vast amounts of money on creating ridiculously overpowered killbots to police the city! This ousting/evil takeover of the police causes them to strike, giving a great reason for no police backup and an even more chaotic battleground for Robocop. The state of the police force also gives reason to the classic Hollywood blatant disregard for the rules (eg foregoing reading Miranda rights, throwing bad guys through windows in front on a mass of people and people cheer)
• The gunning down of Murphy is brutal and visceral. It takes it’s time and is wonderfully graphic. (Director’s cut add a few shots here). Getting his hand blown off first is quite a sight. There’s some sweet gun-violence in the movie (as opposed to just guns going off and people falling out of shot). Here, when people get shot, blood squibs pop. Great!
• Baddies are shown to be ‘all bad’ (no hesitation for murder, harass shop-keeps, drug-running etc) so it leaves no doubt that Robocop is doing good by killing them. Evil exec Bob tells his staff that even though they could save Murphy’s arm, to cut it off as he wants him to be more machine than man.
• Even though his mind was supposed to be erased, a main plot point is Robocop remembering who he once was. However there is no internal struggle with whether he’s man or machine. He’s just a cop. A robo-cop.
• Some deus-ex writing as the film opens up plot threads (the ED209 killbot, Directive 4 is a mystery, the wife wanted to tell him something) and get answered/feature by the end. I really felt bad for Robocop – not only does he get gunned down by crooks, he gets gunned down again, this time by a SWAT team. Nice repetition, a great way to show the corrupt nature of the city.
• There’s a hoopla about Officer Anne Lewis joining forces with Murphy/Robocop (her former partner) again…you were partners for about 30 minutes, once! Get the boat!
• It’s a bit wobbly that Robocop kills baddies and can be reminded of his directives (and spares Jones). Perhaps it’s because Jones was unarmed and not a threat. Similarly wobbly is exec Dick chastising Jones for implicating him while pleading to Robocop, and seemingly minutes later he admits to murdering him too!
There’s a few (unintentionally?) funny parts of the film:
• The ED209 is a large bipedal killbot, which reminds me of some early “series 1” terminator robots (before they went with humanoid). It’s generally cool – although it is hilarious that it moves in classic stop-motion. It has a comedy spot where it weighs up walking down stairs (and falls over) …You shouldn’t be booking it like a dog! It should straighten it’s feet and slide down! Another ED209 gets jobbed out in seconds at the end of the film, so hey, never mind, a robot is no match for a robo-cop.
• One of the goons is washed over with toxic waste, and starts immediately mutating into a ghastly sludge monster. It’s absolutely ridiculous and just great, as is his death, being run over and pink/red glob flying everywhere. Brilliant.
• There’s a blue-screen falling-death which is, extremely hilarious. For some reason his arms are now warped Stretch Armstrongs! I’m sure it was grand back in the 80s with low-res VCRs.
• I did really like the bigger world picture as the deaths of presidents due to a ‘misfiring’ is mentioned. That OCP is still standing leaves it open for a sequel!
Overall; it’s a damn fine action movie. Not quite Terminator 1 & 2 but it’s got some great 80’s action and necessarily unnecessary violence! Recommend, yeah!