RoboCop ★★★½

"Dead or alive you're coming with me."

I was born in 87, and like me, RoboCop is getting a bit old. But it's still pretty awesome in its own particular ways. I just had the chance to see it again on Blu-ray (sadly not the new 4K master, but I am looking to pick that version up later), and while it's easy to understand why it's a beloved film, I personally wouldn't rank it up there alongside The Terminator.

The film is about a future dystopian version of Detroit (future, sure you don't mean present?) where the police force has become privatized and is now run by a corporation called OCP - Omni Consumer Products. They are looking to get rid of crime and make a profit at the same time, and they soon get their chance, by turning a deceased police officer into a cyborg meant to uphold the law - RoboCop.

It's ironic that Paul Verhoeven's film has become an American classic when it's a dark satire about a lot that is wrong with the country. It has a strong and memorable identity though: the suit, the theme, the premise. It's also a hard R-rated bloodbath, the type of film I'd sneak over to my neighbours to see when I was a kid. It has a great cast, from Peter Weller to Nancy Allen and Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker, the bad guy you hate to love and love to hate.

There are things that chip away from the perfect grade for me though, small things, but they add up to the point where watching it now feels like getting a visit from that relative - you know the one, you like him, but he smells. He's kind, but he's loud.
Murphy is thrown in and out of the story before you can blink, we barely know the man at all before he's shot into pieces of sashimi. We know that he was transferred and that he has a son. Period. The film isn't really about RoboCop until a bit later ("He's product"), so it may as well be called "When OCP Built RoboCop". The constant satire feels like being poked with a stick, even though it's poignant, the film is very dated, and it's more of a chuckle than a hearty laugh now. It's tough to go from watching someone get shot to a pulp into a commercial for the "SUX 6000". It doesn't gel for me. Some effects have held up well, but others frankly look terrible, particularly ED-209's jerky stop motion scenes. The film in general looks rather drab and simple, but it does help sell the dystopian vibe, slabs of concrete grey everywhere.

I'm sitting here trying to think of when the film works best - when a newborn RoboCop takes to the streets to clean up the garbage? Maybe. Probably. There are a lot of small logical flaws that tend to annoy, like why two cops with guns would go against an entire gang that they know are armed to the teeth, or why RoboCop would beat up criminals and leave them with some one-liner when he is programmed to either arrest or terminate them. I guess it's irrelevant, but the final abrupt cut to black seems to send you off saying "punchline, joke delivered, did you have fun?", not round off like a more properly structured story should. I guess what annoys me is that Alex is a means to tell the story, a rather faceless character that is used by greedy executives to show that The Bad Guys Wear Suits and Ties. That makes the movie rigid like his titanium alloy when it should be vibrant like whatever organic material he has left underneath.

José Padilha's remake tomorrow night, I have very mixed emotions about that one, it looks like it could be absolutely bland and awful, but it could also go to some very interesting places. Time will tell.

Oh, and I also happened upon the very interesting Making of- documentary on YouTube. It confirms that the production was a total nightmare and Paul Verhoeven is pretty much insane, haha, but it's still a fascinating watch. I'd also really recommend comicbookgirl19's musings about the sin of remaking the film, particularly if you're a staunch movie conservatist.

Robin liked this review