RoboCop

RoboCop ★★★★★

There's a new guy in town.
His name's RoboCop.

Such a badass film. I haven't watched this in a while but it holds up like the Maya Pyramids. It's the perfect storm - scintillating script, awesome action, visuals to die for and a spine-tingling score from Basil Poledouris with that main theme, first heard as RoboCop takes to the street in his patrol car, blurred city skyline and deep orange sky visible through the dividing mesh. I never really noticed before just how good Jost Vacano's cinematography is; every scene is filmed to extract its full dramatic potential and there's also some brilliantly fluid tracking shots. The colour palette really pops, especially on Arrow's 4k restoration. It's a beautiful thing.

The Director's Cut also throws a bit more gore into the mix (like there wasn't enough already!) which is an added bonus. This is Verhoeven at his most visceral, with explosions, spurting arterial wounds, bloody stumps and a sea of dead bodies. There are still few scenes as jaw-dropping as the first introduction of ED-209 in a demonstration gone horribly wrong and the warehouse takedown of Murphy is absolutely brutal. All this inside the first 20 minutes!

The cast all bring their A-games but it's the triumvirate of villains who shine darkest; Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith and Miguel Ferrer all kill it. The power games between Jones and Morton, mediated by Clarence Boddicker, are dynamite, even before you get to the main draw. Peter Weller's suitably intimidating in the lead role too, ably supported by Nancy Allen, but if it's anyone's show, it's Kurtwood Smith's, as bloodthirsty, amoral kingpin Boddicker. You get the impression he'd happily gun down his own mother if there were a few bucks in it (or even just for hell of it).

Shed loads of quotable dialogue, much of it immortalized over the years in popular culture: We get the best of both worlds: the fastest reflexes modern technology has to offer, on board computer-assisted memory, and a lifetime of on-the-street law enforcement programming. There's also all the little touches of world building Verhoeven brings to bear, the automated greeting unit for prospective house hunters, Media-Break (a useful exposition delivery system) and some hilarious faux ads poking fun at consumer culture.

If I had one little nitpick it might be why they left RoboCop's mouth exposed - surely an obvious chink in the armour (and with all the bullets flying, it's amazing he never takes any facial damage!). Then again, other than the TJ Lazer gunplay, how else would Lewis recognize Murphy and propel the plot forward? It's also a clear callback in Rob Bottin's design of the character to Judge Dredd, which I imagine informed Neumeier and Miner's script as well. The idea of the super cop, judge, jury and executioner, comes straight from the pages of 2000AD - more so in a way with ED-209, who definitely ain't making any arrests. 20 seconds to comply y'all. The design of ED-209 compared with RoboCop is noticeably jerkier due to the stop-motion modelling but I love the way it's often used as the butt of jokes, malfunctioning, reduced to a pair of green-smoking legs with sufficient firepower and even defeated by the physical impossibility of a basic staircase.

The pacing is so on point; I didn't see one wasted scene - it moves fast and takes no prisoners, much like the man-machine himself. The 80s had a habit of throwing up flawless sci-fi actioners, thrilling as all get out with just the right amount of dark, satirical comedy. In the parlance of HPL, this one's a Great Old One among Outer Gods.

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