With the Robocop reboot just around the corner, I felt it fitting to go back and review one of my favorites movies of all time, The Paul Verhoeven classic Robocop. I grew up watching this movie with my brother. We had many of the Robocop toys and comics. I have seen all of the Robocop sequels, cartoons, and the TV series. Parts of this film were also filmed a few miles from my house growing up, and I passed by the filming location on a weekly basis. Because this movie was filmed so close to me, I have a unique bond with it. I may be jumping the gun here, but I do not believe the remake will even be able to re-create the complexity and impact that this film had in 1987 when it was released and now 26 years later.
The story takes place in a futuristic crime ridden Detroit. Plans for a “New Detroit” called “Delta City” are in the works, and the company planning to do build it is a huge corporation by the name of Omni Consumer Products (OCP). OCP has just gone into a contract with Detriot to privatize the Detroit Police Department, and redesign the force for the new city. There is a big push by the OCP CEO (Dan O’Herlihy) and Senior Vice President Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) to augment the police force with robotic police officers to address the crime. When Dick Jones’ prototype malfunctions and leads to the death of a company employee, up and coming executive Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) pitches his idea for a Robocop to the CEO. Morton promises to have his project up and running faster than Dick Jones project. This leads to animosity between Dick Jones and Bob Morton that will play out the during the rest of the movie.
Meanwhile, Detriot Police Officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is transferred to a new police precinct in “Old Detroit” that has a huge crime rate. Murphy is paired with Police Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen). On his first shift at the new police precinct, he and Lewis respond to a bank robbery orchestrated by Crime Boss Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and his crew. Murphy and Lewis chase the gang to an abandoned steel mill. During the search for the gang, which have now gone on foot inside of the mill, Lewis and Murphy separate, and Lewis is knocked out. Murphy locates several of the criminals and confronts them alone. Murphy is ambushed and shot up by Boddicker and his henchmen. Murphy is taken to a hospital where he later dies. OCP then swoops in and takes Murphy’s body to be integrated into the Robocop project. Once completed Robocop goes on a journey of crime fighting, self discovery, identity searching, and revenge.
This filmed marked Paul Verhoeven’s first major movie in the United States. Many of his movies contain black humor poking fun at political events. Robocop was no exception. This movie touches on the rise of capitalism, corporate greed, crime rates, political agendas, and human nature. Much like many of Verhoeven’s future movies such as Total Recall and Starship Troopers, he intentionally includes over the top, comedic like gore to break up the seriousness of his movies. He also staggers news clips mimicking real world events to break up the violence. Robocop was so violent that the MPAA gave the film a “X” rating 11 times until Verhoeven was force to edit some of his over the top violence. Even with all of the violence, I feel it does not take away from the film at all. Robocop has some very deep and serious undertones in it, including Robocop’s search for his own human identity. The title Robocop would make the audience think that the movie was some cheesy sci-fi flick, but it is way more than that. The movie was done very well, and mixes several different movie genres into one. Verhoeven also puts a lot of Christian symbolism into Robocop as a Christ like-figure. This movie was done so well that it was nominated for two academy awards and was voted the best film of 1987.
I think the casting for this movie was perfect. Peter Weller did an amazing job with the Robocop character, and his distinctive voice adds a grizzly, authoritative tone to the character. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rutger Hauer were originally sought after as the lead in this movie, but hindsight I am glad that they were not cast. Nancy Allen was also not the first pick for Anne Lewis, but having her as Weller’s partner in the movie was also another blessing in disguise. Ronny Cox, Miguel Ferrer, and Kurtwood Smith also play great characters. The on screen feud between Miguel Ferrer and Ronny Cox character’s were a great addition to the film and really shows a no-holds barred battle in corporate sector that holds true in real life. Several of the other minor characters that appear in the film ad diversity to the film. In my opinion, Paul Verhoeven was generous when he casted this movie, and I will find it hard that the reboot will have the on screen chemistry like this movie has.
The 1987 version of this film with be enjoyable to watch well into the future. I foresee it becoming even more popular as a new generation discovers it when the reboot hits the screens, however it will be hard to replicate Verhoeven’s masterpiece. It is a movie that focused on a lot of the events that were happening during the time frame such as greed, economic despair, and the rise of corporations. In fact this still holds true 26 years later; Capitalism is still in full force. Detroit and other major cities are cash strapped and crime ridden. Police forces are laying off officers, and some are even going private. I feel many new people seeing this film for the first time will relate this themes to present day or their own unique living situation. Now that I have written this review, I think I am going to sit down once more and watch this movie.
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