Dir: Paul Verhoeven, 1987
There’s always been something about the violence in RoboCop that has always made me wince. I’ve seen August Underground, Murder Set Pieces and, even, A Serbian Film in all their uncut and uncensored visceral filth and never flinched. But this has always made me feel uncomfortable and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the grim tone the film conveys or the fact that the violence is so over the top. Whatever it is, it’s gets me.
Verhoeven does an excellent job at making you feel for pre-Robo, Alex Murphy (Peter Weller). His death at the hands of Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) is one of horror and shock.
The sound effects are incredibly powerful. Loud and explosive, layered with bass giving them a deeper and more ear bashing sound.
It’s a very, very simple plot with an even more cheesy title. On the face of it, it’s essentially a B-movie but with a multi million dollar budget and bankable director.
Alex Murphy has just transferred from another police station and it’s his first day on the beat. Being partnered with tough Detroit veteran Anne Lewis, they answer a call for a bank robbery and proceed to chase the gang down the highway to their hideout, an abandoned old steel mill.
Choosing not to wait for back up, they decide to enter the mill and arrest the robbers. Unsurprisingly, things go awry and the gang blow him to smithereens with shotguns and a final bullet to the head.
Unable to save him, the conglomerate OCP, who own the police, use his body in a new experiment to combat crime. They will turn him into an unstoppable machine called..RoboCop.
Robo has his memory wiped and a list of directives imbedded that control him. Unfortunately, his real memory comes back to him and he attempts to take down Boddicker and the rest of the gang responsible for his death.
It’s pretty much a black comedy. The violence is played for laughs. The scene where Kenney is pummelled with bullets into a bloody mess by ED-209 ends with someone shouting for a paramedic! A paramedic? What good is a paramedic when he looks burger meat? And why would you use live bullets in a demonstration?
RoboCop has so many subtexts you could lose count. It’s about capitalism, greed, lack of humanity, corruption, depression, despondency, social disorder, social commentary and so much more.
A prominent theme through the film is about the television media. At certain points an advert will appear offering the latest product whether it be a car called the SUX or a board game called Nukem,where the object of the game is to nuke the other players in a manner akin to World War III or world domination.
Although a comic book film at, heart there is an added sense of reality. Instead of using fancy and cool names who look hot and stylish, they look ordinary with ordinary names.
To be fair there isn’t really much to say about RoboCop that hasn’t already been said. It’s just a good film. Plenty of action and gore with the right amount of humour creating an evenly balanced, entertaining sci-fi romp that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.