Saturday, February 8, 2014

#1,272. Robocop (1987)


Directed By: Paul Verhoeven

Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O'Herlihy


Tag line: "Part man. Part machine. All cop. The future of law enforcement"

Trivia: In Sacramento, CA, a robbery suspect fled into a dark movie theater, where Robocop was playing, to escape the police. He became so engrossed in the movie that he didn't notice the cops had evacuated the theater. When the lights went on, the suspect was taken into custody





It’s hard to set aside my fanboy mentality when reviewing Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop, a film about a murdered police officer who’s transformed into the ultimate law enforcement machine. With so many great scenes, so much incredible action, and one hell of a premise, Robocop kicks ass in every conceivable way.

It’s the near future, and Detroit is a criminal’s paradise. The police force, which was purchased by the Omni Corporation after the city declared bankruptcy, tries to keep the peace, but is losing the streets to thugs, thieves, killers, and rapists. Officer Murphy (Peter Weller) has just been transferred to the worst precinct in town. While on patrol, he and his new partner, Officer Lewis (Nancy Allen), respond to a call that leads them into a confrontation with Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and his gang, easily the most vicious criminals in all of Detroit. The pursuit ends at an abandoned warehouse, where Murphy is cornered, then murdered by Boddicker and his men. But that’s not the end of Murphy, because immediately after his death, his body is turned over to the Omni Corporation to be used as part of a top-secret experiment that, if successful, will result in a new kind of cop, a cyborg with a bulletproof casing and state-of-the-art weaponry. Spearheaded by Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer), who went over the head of Omni’s top executive Dick Smith (Ronny Cox) to get funding, the “Robocop Program” is a rousing success, and before long, Robocop is patrolling the streets. But is he truly more machine than man, or will the memories of what happened to his “human” side haunt him as he attempts to enforce the law?

An impressive combination of sci-fi and action, Robocop features more than its share of awesome scenes. The initial showdown between Murphy and Boddicker’s gang is bloody as hell (Boddicker blows Murphy’s hand off with a shotgun), and Verhoeven shows us every gory bit of it (in the uncut version, anyway). Another very graphic sequence takes place inside the Omni Corporation’s board room, where Dick Jones is staging a demonstration of his pet project, the ED-209, an imposing robot with a heavy arsenal. Unfortunately, the ED-209 has a few bugs that need to be worked out, which becomes obvious the moment it blows away Kinney (Kevin Page), the young executive who volunteered to be the test subject. The thrills continue when Robocop finally hits the streets, especially those scenes where he faces off against Boddicker and his cronies. On his first night out, Robocop happens upon a robbery in progress, with Emil (Paul McCrane), one of Boddicker’s men, threatening a gas station attendant with an automatic weapon. Aside from being a solid action sequence (it ends with an explosion), this confrontation also stirs up old memories for Robocop, who, after recognizing Emil as one of Murphy’s killers, begins to remember his past life, which will ultimately lead to some disturbing revelations.

Robocop even offers a few memorable scenes outside the action. I loved how Verhoeven pieced together the “creation” of Robocop. Shown from Robocop’s perspective (during those moments when, early in the process, he’d gain consciousness), we see what he sees while strapped to a table in the Omni labs, most of which is presented in brief snippets (at one point, Robocop wakes up while the technicians working on him are celebrating the New Year). We’re also treated to some TV news reports, detailing everything from the crime in Detroit to civil unrest in Mexico, and even hang in there for a few commercial breaks (my favorite being one that features a family board game centered on thermonuclear war). Verhoeven tosses everything but the proverbial Kitchen Sink into Robocop, and as a result, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll never be bored watching this movie.

OF course, Robocop isn’t all guns and explosions. By throwing the spotlight on such topics as corporate greed, rampant crime, and personal identity (which comes into play when Robocop / Murphy starts remembering life before the suit), the film does have plenty to say about the human condition. So if you like your movies to have a message, you’re sure to find something to your liking in Robocop.

Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the carnage!







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