RoboCop (1987)


Still have no clue why Detroit hasn’t tried this yet.

Set in a crime-ridden Detroit, Michigan in the near future, a police officer named Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is brutally murdered by a gang of thugs (lead by Kurtwood Smith). Murphy’s life is over and is hailed as a hero for all of the service that he put into his job, but is that really it for the guy? Somebody from the malevolent mega-corporation OCP finds a way to subsequently revive him as a super-duper, crime-fighting machine known as RoboCop. Fun and hilarity ensues, I guess. All depending on what side your on.

The fact that Hollywood wants to give this original piece of material, the remake over-do that they are so in love with nowadays, really shocks me. It shocks me even more now, considering that the remake for Total Recall that blasted it’s ways into cinemas, just as quick as it blasted it’s way out, was forgettable, noting-special, and even though I didn’t hate it like others, still didn’t have the fun or charm of what made the original so lovely. Who knows what those grubby-paws of Hollywood have on their minds for the remake of this classic, but whatever it is that they do; at least we’ll always have this to fall back on. Oh, the lovely 80’s. How I miss your synthesizer-heavy scores.

Paul Verhoeven is considered a cult-director, that the mainstream audience still loves. This was his first foray into American cinema, and the heavy-baggage that he brought along with him was great to see, especially when you think about how much life and excitement he pumped into the sci-fi genre with this movie. Where Verhoeven excels with this movie, where others seemed to lose themselves on, is that he has a wonderful-sense of pacing. The guy is all about blood, action, gore, explosions, bullets, guns, and robots doing crazy and violent things, but he has also has an essence of what makes a story; a story that you not only care for, but realize is there underneath all of the guts and glory (literally).

Get ready, crime. You gonna get yo ass kicked, and then some.
Get ready, crime. You gonna get yo ass kicked, and then some.

Now, I’m not saying that the guy gets really dramatic on us, but with a story about a guy who loses his life due to a death, and has to make sense of it all while killing baddies left-and-right; you still have to give some credit to the dramatic-fireworks that may or may not be on-display here. For a story that’s more than I ever expected: I have to give credit to Verhoeven but it’s not the guy’s specialty by any stretch of the imagination. The guy’s specialty is action, action, action, and there’s a shit-load of that for all of you suckas to love and chew-on, while you try your hardest to not geek-out when RoboCop uses brutal-force against some sons-of-bitches.

This movie is exactly the type of fun you could want from a sci-fi flick: it’s fun, electric, entertaining, and always gory. The movie definitely has a look and style of it’s own in the way that it shows the future, shows the crime, and shows all of the violence that occurs, but never, ever shies away from it. Instead, it gets down and dirty with it all and gives us the fun that we always want from a sci-fi movie, especially a BLOODY one like this. I’m still surprised that this one garnered an R-rating, considering all of the crazy and disturbing that they do actually show and allow to go on here. However, it’s Verhoeven and the guy still finds a sense of beauty in the way he kills people, and how gory he makes it all look.

However, don’t be fooled by it all, because this movie is pretty damn weird. But don’t think weird is a bad thing, it’s a great thing, especially when you’re talking about this movie. There’s a lot of satire to be had here where, every once and awhile, two newscasters will pop-up on the screen to talk about daily happenings and give off some of the corniest line-readings ever but also make fun of the way our media treats violence. Like when one of the newscasters reads about 113 people dying in a burned building, and then quickly changes right away to a commercial about a brand-spankin’ new car to buy that’s out on the market. They don’t do this a lot in the film, but whenever they do, it made me laugh and realize that this film wasn’t just all about robots, guns, and murder, it’s more about the way our media is just getting dumber and dumber through television. This is obviously something that everybody knows about in today’s world, and some films even have this same exact central theme, but it’s just surprising to see it done in a film from 1987, when shit did seem to get a whole lot dumber, thanks to television. Then again, I don’t really think movies make you that much smarter, either. Or maybe it’s just certain ones that do. Either way, I’m a dumb fool and I like it! Woo-hoo!

If there seemed to be any problem with this movie that’s really holding me back from giving it a 9, it was that this is an 80’s movie, and it can be laughably cheesy at points. Hell, what the heck am I talking about!??! It’s always cheesy!! And one of the main pieces of cheese that annoyed the shit out of me was the character of Lewis, played by everybody’s favorite Brian De Palma babe, Nancy Allen. Everybody in this movie seems to have a chip on their shoulder, know what they’re about to do next, and have it go in the way that they planned: but not Lewis. No, siree! Lewis is a dumb character that yells, annoys, and nags everybody around her the whole time. And I’m not even talking about the characters in the movie, but us as well and it made me wish that RoboCop did a better deed and just got rid of her mouth before any further damage or harm was done anymore. She was only really there for the emotional-support this character needed to get through a relatively rough-time, and that was about it. Didn’t see any real reason for her to be around, or to serve the plot. Just there to be another pretty face and help RoboCop not serge his circuits when he was crying like a little bitch.

"Come out of hiding, Eric."
“Come out of hiding, Eric.”

Despite Nancy Allen being grudgingly-annoying throughout the whole movie, Peter Weller is actually still holds the fort down pretty well as Murphy/RoboCop. His monotone voice may be pushing the character and his delivery a little too far, but let’s face it: this performance isn’t about what the guy can do with what he says or how he says it, it’s all about kicking-ass, fighting crime, and saving the day like we all know and love RoboCop for. That’s all that matters in a movie like this, and as much as I may sound like a d-bag for getting on the movie’s case of being dated, it still was able to fall by the waist-side for me in certain-spots. Not all of the spots, but certain, and that’s more than I could say about Nancy Allen or whatever the hell it was that she was doing. God, I hated that chick.

However, just you wait and watch as you get a bit blind-sided by this movie. What I mean by that is even though RoboCop is our hero for the 2-hours and is there to fuck shit up like we want him to do, he isn’t the immovable-force that steals the show in this movie. Nope, that credit goes right to Kurtwood Smith as the extremely memorable villain, Clarence Boddicker. That’s right people, Red Forman gives one of those classic “love-to-hate” villains that every good sci-fi film needs, and it’s such a surprise to see this come out of Smith. He’s dastardly, sadistic, pretty damn smart, and even though he may not have the tin-build of RoboCop, the guy still proves to be a total threat you do not want to fuck with, no matter how shaky things get for him or for RoboCop. It’s a nice battle between these two that we get to see, enjoy, and realize that it’s something we never really get to see all that much in film’s nowadays, let alone ones of the sci-fi genre. Great villain and definitely the right guy to go toe-to-toe with RoboCop in the grander-scheme of things. Bravo, Red. Bravo.

Consensus: Since this is an 80’s movie, RoboCop suffers from being dated in most areas, but still works when it wants to crank-up the volume, kick ass, take names, fight criminals, and let us all see how much ketchup packets it had in it’s budget. It’s a sci-fi flick that hasn’t aged well in certain areas, but the areas that it has aged well in: are what make it awesome.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Seriously, what the fuck is that?!?!
Seriously, what the fuck is that?!?!
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46 comments

  1. Excellent review Dan, I agree on almost every level. Good job. Be forewarned though, people seriously love this movie. I posted it as a Movie That Everyone Should See as an April Fools joke last April, and it went right over everyone’s head.People took it completely seriously and just gushed praise over it. 😀

    • The sequels blew, but that’s pretty much assumed when you have a flick like this. The remake doesn’t look promising, but stranger things have in fact happened.

  2. Crackin review yo! I had come across the badass that was Robocop when I was kid but never watched this film properly until a few years ago. I have to say that was very impressed and liked the film a lot, the violence in the film, my god! There is just a whole load of death and carnage and it’s so bloody hardcore! But outside of that I really liked the story and characters desptie the films sometimes cheesy nature. Btw that remake version looks like ass and I can’t wait to see how Hollywood fucks this one up.

  3. Been a while since I saw this but I’d never forget the brutal killing of Murphy. Oh man, I sooo hated Clarence Boddicker, so revolting!! Every time I saw That 70s Show I sometimes think oh geez, that’s the guy from Robocop!! 🙂

  4. I have to say – this was always one of my favorites…the board room scene where they first introduce the new model – and the robot gives the guy “30 seconds to drop your weapon”, then proceeds to keep stalking him after he puts down the weapon…outstanding! And the delivery of the , “I’m very disappointed”. Brilliant. Great review!

  5. Nice one! A film I still love today which reminds me of the glory days of VHS for some reason. I’d buy that for a dollar.

  6. Before I even read your review I was thinking to myself about this film probably not aging gracefully, and it turns out you bring this up as well.
    When we set it against the context of the time it was made in, there are certainly a lot of elements to RoboCop that you pointed out that do make it a pretty enjoyable experience though. A solid 3/5 for me.
    Nice review!

  7. RoboCop is one of my favorite films of all-time. Definitely makes it into my personal Top 10. I’m glad you enjoyed it too Dan, otherwise I might have had a bone to pick with you. I saw it way too early on in life, definitely before the age of 5, so there was some pretty scarring stuff like the part where the guy crashes the truck into the toxic waste. That scared the shit out of me as a kid. It’s hyper-violent yet strangely beautiful and much smarter than you’d expect, similar to Verhoeven’s Total Recall. Not only is it a great action/sci-fi flick, but it’s also a biting social satire. Aren’t you glad large greedy corporations like OCP haven’t started privatizing public services yet? I never really thought of Nancy Allen’s character as annoying before, although I can certainly see your point. Kurtwood Smith is also friggen amazing as the bad guy. What a maniacal a-hole. I’ll admit that the film does look a bit cheesy now, but I love cheese, especially the 80s variety. It cracks me up how they never explain that bizarre TV show with the catchphrase “I’d buy that for a dollar!”

  8. Great review, Dan, of one of my favorite films as a kid. Sure, the version I grew up on was a bastardized, edited-to-ribbons television version, and it wasn’t until I was well into my 20’s that I finally saw the uncut version in all its gory glory, but I just loved the concept of the man becoming machine and taking it to the bad guys. And ED209 wasn’t a bad thing either.

    You touched on all the media and socio-political undercurrents in this film, which I admit surprised me more as an adult viewer than they ever did as a kid, and I agree, it’s this element that makes Robocop such a fascinating watch.

    Nice work, my man!!!

    • It’s a great movie and a step-ahead of most sci-fi flicks. That’s why I hope they don’t dumb down this remake TOO much. Maybe that’s asking too much. Thanks Rod!

  9. Hey Dan, well now, one helluva nice coverage of this classic with all the praise and appreciation I would hope for. If you’re going to look back with thoughts about the campy quality of the bygone era of the 80s and 90s you’d be in good company to start or in the very least include Robocop. Personally I think almost everything that has ever gone back in time to recoup the intangible, often attempted and rarely successful camp look, feel and mouth feel of the A Team effect (as good a model for camp as anything) has been a train wreck. But what really caught me was your harsh words for the Total Recall. I mean wow, I could not have had a more opposite reaction. I can’t help but invite you over to my review – lets chat man? http://rorydean.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/total-recall-2012/

    • I liked Total Recall, but just felt it to be a tad bit of a dull and dry remake. That’s why I surely do not hope that the remake for this movie isn’t. Thanks for your kind words bud!

  10. I am glad you wrote about the satire in this movie, because a lot of people seemed to miss the point of it. It’s scary how much our news casts are starting to look like the ones here. Great job

  11. Definitely one of the best sci-fi films of the 80’s, right up there with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Return of the Jedi. Also, this film just goes to show how much of a master Ray Harryhausen was at special effects. Definitely as good as some of the better CGI people out there, like WETA (the folks behind the Lord of the Rings effects). Outside of Eminem and the Red Wings, I would imagine Robocop is one of Detroit’s proudest attributes (which would explain why they have a petition to have a statue of him built there: http://detroitneedsrobocop.com/)

    Speaking of Peter Weller and and the darker side of the 1980s, did anyone here happen to see him star as Batman in The Dark Knight Returns? What did you think of his performance? Personally I felt that was an inspired choice, seeing as how he reprises his role as a crime-fighter who everyone thought was out of commission, only to come back harder and more brutal than before.

    Another thing to thing about is how RoboCop happened before the massive increase of privatizing government functions. Whether that’s good or bad I’ll leave to you to decide, but I feel this is something worth mentioning.

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