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The original ROBOCOP is simply one of the best science fiction movies ever committed to celluloid. A dystopian view of the “Future of Law Enforcement,” it paints a bleak picture of corruption that drips with sarcasm and social commentary...oh yeah and blood. Lots of it!
Police Officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) just wants to do a good job fighting the escalating crime in Old Detroit. Unbeknownst to him, the Executives at Omni Consumer Projects (OCP) have plans for reinventing the police force and when Murphy is brutally murdered in the line of duty, he is resurrected by OCP as a cyborg cop.
Thinking they’ve got “Robocop” under their thumb, they don’t factor in free will and soon the man inside the armor is out finding his killers and fighting the very corruption that brought him back from the dead.
Directed by Paul Verhoeven with wild abandon, the movie is over-the-top in just about every aspect. But this is what makes Verhoeven such a masterfully subversive filmmaker. i.e. His ability to transcend genre with the use of extremes in both story and graphic violence.
Written by Ed Neumeier (STARSHIP TROOPERS), the script turns genre cliché on it ear and contains some of the most memorable scenes and quotable lines that still resonate to this day. How did we get along before such doozies as “I’d buy that for a dollar!” or “Bitches leave!”
The cast is uniformly up for the challenge with Peter Weller leading the charge as the doomed officer Murphy. He’s aided by Nancy Allen as his scrappy take-charge partner Anne Lewis. Ronny Cox has never been fiercer than as the conniving Dick Jones, but the movie is elevated by Kurtwood Smith’s inspired portrayal of villain Clarence Boddicker.
Having not read the script, I’m not sure what came from the mind of Neumeier or what was brought to the table by Smith, but with moments like sticking two fingers into a wine glass and sniffing them during a negotiation or the deliciously evil “Na, na, na, na, na, na” chant before he blows off Murphy’s hand with a shotgun, we know we’re witnessing a bad guy who functions on a different level and makes his own rules.
Other aspects worth noting are the exceptional work done by Make-Up FX wizard Rob Bottin on the ROBOCOP suit as well as Phil Tippet’s work on the stop-motion. And Basil Poledouris’ score is not only rousing but also infinitely hummable. It still remains one of my favorite film scores.
Having seen ROBOCOP more times than I can remember, I’m happy to say that it has aged well and still delivers all the bloody goods while remaining relevant to modern audiences. It is a MUST SEE SCIENCE FICTION movie and I can’t recommend it enough.
ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: I rewatched the remake of ROBOCOP (2014) the night before and as I said in my original review from February, it’s a decent Science Fiction film and deserves more credit than it’s given. Obviously the original is the magnum opus, but that doesn’t mean that the remake is without merit especially given that plot-wise, tonally and thematically they are very different films. Check it out as a good companion piece.