Film of the Week: Robocop (1987)


Paul Verhoeven directs Peter Weller, Nancy Allen and Kurtwood Smith in this dystopian action satire about a corporation who use a dead cop’s remains to be the software in their superhuman cybernetic replacement for the police force they own. 

I was way too young to know what hard candy I was tasting when I first watched Robocop. All I know is I loved every shot of it. Still do. Verehoeven has baked it so packed with hot and spicy ingredients, there ain’t nothing sweet about this renegade Hollywood confection. When people make big whoop about Deadpool and Logan being R-Rated, they forget how tame they are next to this full on sensibility shaker. The free flowing satire dominates as accurate spoof news updates, blasé commercials for apocalyptic products and the very nadir of sitcoms interject themselves into the main thrust of the near pornographic comic book sci-fi hair-raiser you’ve bought a ticket for. The corporate machinations (the most chilling throwaway line comes from charming Miguel Ferrer’s suit when he casually pitches they are putting top cops out in the streets to die to get an appropriate guinea pig; “we restructured the police force to place prime candidates according to risk factor…” That’s some cold shit!) sit comfortably next a rapist having his crotch blown off or a stooge being turned mutant after they crash into toxic waste. The action is sophisticated and nasty, so are the brute capitalist politics of this near future. Check out those practical effects work; the terrifying ED-209s (except when they fall down stairs and have a mecha-tantrum), the Frankenstein’s monster that is Murphy himself. Check out those villians; Kurtwood Smith out Nicholson’s Jack himself as Clarence Boddicker, Ronny Cox is the embodiment of old white male privilege as oily corrupt Vice President Dick Jones. Check out that loco dialogue; “Can you fly, Bobby?” “Oooh. Guns, guns, guns! C’mon, Sal! The Tigers are playing…” OK so it pretty much all is ripped off from 2000AD in general and Judge Dredd in particular but no straight adaptation of Dredd ever got a score quite as perfectly hummable as Basil Poledouris propulsive classic. And there’s a haunting melancholy to it all. Not just when Murphy starts to regain his memories but that defeatist moment when he looks at the full horror of what he has been converted into in a broken shard of mirror and just sits on an abandoned sofa like a middle aged man reading his divorce papers, choking on his lot and staring blankly off into the middle distance. Heartbreaking stuff from Weller… if you fancy a bit of heartbreaking between your bullet heavy, coke factory raids and your neck gougings. I’D BUY THAT FOR A DOLLAR!


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