Monday 16 April 2007

Robocop (1987) Paul Verhoeven

The nuclear paranoia on hand in the opening news segment may be a little dated now but the rest of it rings as true today as it did in 1987. The plastic newscaster grins and advertising spin is clever and astute but the outsourcing of everything under the sun to global corporations is even better. Omni Consumer Products (OCP) is omnipresent in Detroit which it is about to rebuild as Delta City. It's already running the Detroit Metro Police Department but crime is still running rampant, so it brings in the next level: a robotic police officer called ED-209 that has machine reflexes, no possibility for corruption and far less downtime than a human being. Of course it doesn't quite work as planned and wipes out a board member during its initial demonstration.

Up and coming corporate wiener Bob Morton is on hand to take advantage of the situation with his Robocop program, a cyborg cop that has all the benefits of ED-209 but with a human side to counter its drawbacks. All he needs is a real cop to use as a guinea pig and Officer Alex Murphy fits the bill. Legally dead following his first Metro City assignment trying to catch a gang of bank robbers, OCP under the direction of Morton put him back together and turn him into the first Robocop. However there's just a little bit of Murphy left in there after the memory wipe and the bioarmour and the rest of it.

I'd forgotten just how many names were in this movie, before they were ever names. Peter Weller and Nancy Allen I remembered as Murphy and his partner Office Anne Lewis respectively, both of whom are as superb as you'd expect from their work since, but there are many others. I had no clue who Kurtwood Smith was when I saw him as the nasty little bad guy here, but now I've seen him in a whole slew of movies and as Red from That 70s Show. Bob Morton is Miguel Ferrer of all people, hardly the first choice for a corporate weasel but a damn fine one. I've seen Robert DoQui recently in Nashville, and Ronny Cox in Deliverance and a whole bunch of others.

What I hadn't forgotten was how masterful it was put together. Sure, it's supposedly dumb pulp scifi but it's far more astute than that and I loved all the little touches that make it real, from the 'Go Robo!' to the way Peter Weller moved in the suit to the drunken young lady falling on her ass at the corporate New Year party. Of course Directive Four is about as real as you could imagine, as are the TV clips and commercials that pop up every now and again. There's a kick ass theme courtesy of Basil Poledouris, there's some awesome dialogue (though the great lines do break the raelity on more than a few occasions) and the sex, violence and bad language is entirely appropriate, which makes a real change. The special effects are superb without ever falling prey to the George Lucas shiny new syndrome, the Robocop design in the hands of Rob Bottin being nigh on perfect. All in all, it's about as great as science fiction action films ever got and it stands up amazingly well for an effects film from 1987.

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