What I Watched Last Night: RoboCop – Director’s Cut (1987)

Director:  Paul Verhoeven

 Cast:  Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith

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Having never seen sci-fi staple RoboCop, and with a shiny new remake out next week, what better time than now? Set in Detroit during the (probably) 23rd century, the city has become a maze like metropolis, while the social sector is all but owned by a bunch of coke snorting Omni Corp CEOs for whom the police service has become a means to a diabolical end. Imagine Judge Dredd’s  Megacity 1, remove all regard for human life, and you’re about there.

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Father, husband and general good guy Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is mown down mercilessly by Clarence Boddicker’s gang in the line of duty (‘Dead or alive, you’re coming with me!’ Yeah, unless they shoot your actual arms off your body! What an idiot!) Omni Corp salvage Officer Murphy’s lifeless corpse and – even though he’s already brain-dead – wipe his memory for good measure. Post-op, only Murhphy’s cranium remains intact; the rest is metal plating and bloopity -bloop future knobs. RoboCop is a thumping tower of terror, a monolith of a man, the ultimate incarnation of the Frankenstein monster. He does look a bit silly though. Conniving  Omni Corp VP Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) has control over the corrugated copper, and his callous attitude towards Detroit’s spate of police murders is more than telling of his immorality ; ‘If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen!’

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Speaking of cooking facilities, guess who does stay in the metaphorical kitchen for the duration of RoboCop…  that’s right, women! The film is ludicrously sexist, almost to a farcical Austin Powers degree.  At one point leading lady Nancy Allen (Officer Lewis, Murphy’s partner) comes up on a criminal named P.Cox, mid-piss, but she’s knocked out because she couldn’t resist a glimpse at his dangling member.

At the helm of this sloppy yet charming cyborg mess is Paul Verhoeven, who went on to direct the untouchable Total Recall  just three years later. From the goofball one-liners to the sigh-inducing call-backs and the playdo-esque special effects, all the mistakes were made in RoboCop. A bit of garishly  gruesome Verhoeven violence spruces it up, as do a series of bang-on satire pieces; news anchors break a story about accidental genocide with grins on their faces, and there’s a brilliant advert for a nuclear version of the Battleships game which quite simply looks the bomb. Atom bomb.

RoboCop’s predictions about the future of industrial America are actually not that far off. ‘Without cops, this city would tear itself apart!’ – How true that statement has proven to be. Current day Detroit is almost worse than the bleak unreality displayed on screen; at least in the film the cops have a 15 minute response time… in real life Detroit, 15 hours would be considered good going.

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RoboCop  is not a great film, but it’s earnest in its vision, and it tackles some of the ‘big questions’. For example, how far will humanity go to eradicate the inhumane ? If the law is dictated by computer codes, how long will it take before humans are no longer deemed worthy of personal freedom?And most importantly of all, will Miller Lite still exist in 200 years time? Fascinatingly, real RoboCops are currently in the prototype stage at Darpa HQ (see link at bottom).

Looking ahead to the Joel Kinnamon/Gary Oldman Robocop  rehash, if the film makers stick to the source material, then they should be alright. The Total Recall  do-over strayed too far from the sacred sci-fi storyline, and paid the price for it’s banality;  in the words of Paul Verhoeven himself, it was ‘completely idiotic’. The Dutch maverick seems to have no doubt that Robocop  2.0 will probably ‘end up in the same vein’, but we will just have to wait and see. The new Robocop  is released on February 7th.

‘I’d buy that for a dollar!’

Actually, the RoboCop  DVD cost £3 in Sainsbury’s, which works out at more like five dollars and two cents.

Here’s the real life RoboCop link: http://www.cnbc.com/id/101294880

Thanks for reading.

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