RoboCop ★★★★★

This movie is violent, vulgar and schlocky. Our protaganist, played by a Peter Weller, is introduced and killed within 20 minutes, graphically blown apart by a criminal gang. One character, near the end of the film, is maimed by toxic waste and killed when a car hits him and he explodes. But this isn't gratuitous violence; it exists in dialogue with story and theme. Robocop takes place in a future Detroit where crime is out of control and the police are unable to restore order. A megacorporation "partners" with law enforcement, using the crisis to develop and sell new military equipment, including combat robots meant to take the place of beat cops. The company will clean up the streets, turn a profit, and also clear the way for the construction of a new, luxury sector of the city.

All of this is established quickly in the first act, and right away we see that this is a movie about neoliberalism — about the destruction of public goods for the sake of private gain, about the spread of capitalist relations to every aspect of our society. Of course, Robocop isn't a subtle movie. And so Verhoeven's underscores all of this — as well as establishes his central point — with one of the most memorable sequences in the film. A senior executive at the company demonstrates one of these combat robots, asking another executive to threaten it with a gun. He obliges, and the robot responds accordingly, asking him to drop the weapon. But then it malfunctions, and guns down the executive, sending him flying on top of a model of the new luxury development, blown apart and covered in blood and gore, which then stains the model.

Here you have the message of the movie: Beneath the polish of modern capitalism lies unspeakable violence. And Verhoeven goes on to emphasize this by giving us the origins of the Robocop, who is pitched by a rival executive as an alternative to those combat robots. To get the human body he needs, he arranges for those criminals to kill Weller's character, Alex Murphy. Here again is the message: the gleaming wonders of capitalist technocracy — Robocop is very cool! — cannot exist without profound and terrible suffering.