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6 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Paul Verhoeven

Written By:
Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner

Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, Ray Wise, Miguel Ferrer, Dan O'Herlihy, Robert DoQui, Felton Perry, Paul McCrane, Del Zamora

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Robocop (1987)
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Movie Review by Filmkiller
March 7th, 2013

Verhoeven's Homerun

Favorite Movie Quote: "You're FIRED!"

If I had to sum up Director Paul Verhoeven's style it would have something to do with pushing the envelope in a number of areas, mostly sex (Showgirls, Basic Instinct, Turkish Delight), and it's also clear that Verhoeven has a certain amount of disdain for media, marketing, and the people not keen enough to properly gauge its nature. Verhoeven chooses a less subtle approach in expressing these views, the cinematic equivalent of a sledge hammer to the point of being comedic, horrific, often entertaining, and sometimes thought-provoking. However, depending on your disposition, it can make taking Verhoeven seriously its own adventure. While Basic Instinct was considered an edgy thriller, Showgirls was considered one of the greatest abominations in the history of film. While Total Recall was a mainstream hit, Starship Troopers is considered a big pile of schlock (even by the film's delusional defenders).

Robocop is Paul Verhoeven's homerun.

Featuring actor-turned-historian Peter Weller in the lead role as Police Officer Alex Murphy, recently transferred to the crappiest precinct in a near-future Detroit where the city is slowly being absorbed by uber-conglomerate Omni Consumer Products (or OCP) in the wake of gangland violence, general street lawlessness, underpaid cops ready to strike, and Clarence Boddiker (Kurtwood Smith) and his band of zanies killing cops. Murphy teams with a veteran ball-buster, Officer Lewis (Nancy Allen), and hits the streets to try and make a difference. Things quickly go bad for Murphy and Lewis when they run afoul of Boddicker, and Murphy is executed in what remains one of the more purposely violent on-screen deaths that I've ever witnessed.

OCP, waiting in the wings to make its fortune by building a new, futuristic utopia over the ruins of old Detroit, has privatized the police department and more importantly Murphy's remains. Murphy, or what's left of him, becomes the raw materials for career-climbing OCP exec Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) and his Robocop program when the big Dick Jones' (Ronny Cox) ED-209 has a... erm... 'glitch'. Robocop arrives on the scene looking like the perfect solution to everyone's problem, except for Jones and his plans for New Detroit, Boddicker and his clowns, and Murphy, who's old self isn't as dead as OCP would prefer.

Robocop is a strange balance of justified excessive violence, campy humor, visionary social commentary, and intense emotional truth, and every frame of it works. Weller's performance is especially remarkable as Murphy begins to remember his past, his death, his family, and the conflicts that arise with his directives. Kurtwood Smith is an intensely believable, magnetic piece of crap wrapped in human skin; this generation knows Smith as the Dad from That 70's Show - and he's brilliant in that role - but he will always be Clarence Boddicker to me. "Can you fly, Bobby?"

I also can't say enough about Murphy's death scene. Out of context, I imagine one could shuffle it off as merely overly violent, but unlike torture porn garbage, say, Hostel, Weller succeeds in limited screen time of winning the audience's affection. You came to see Robocop? Well here's the portal through which you must pass if you want your pew-pew action movie, sharing the horror, fear, pain, and surprise of Murphy as he's ruthlessly and playfully shot apart by Boddicker and his vile cohorts. Verhoeven doesn't let you off the hook even after the shooting, as you come along for the ride with Murphy via POV as doctors fail to save his life and OCP execs decide to "lose the arm". People worry about kids getting desensitized to violence; well, I was a kid, and I never for one second thought any moment of Murphy's death was cool. I give Verhoeven big points for this.

Robocop delivers as entertainment, but like Blade Runner before, it also winds up being a visionary cautionary tale of American Corporatism made during the height of the capitalistic coke-fest that was the Regan era 80's. The fake commercials, game shows, and news laced within the film seemed so overblown at the time, but have become passe in our present. The bounds of corporate greed, power, and manipulation - to own an entire city and essentially a man - a convenient film fiction in 1987 looks like amateur-hour in 2013. Like Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, whether by design or accident, Robocop hit's uncomfortably close to the mark.

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