In future Detroit, a cop is mortally wounded and resurrected as
a powerful cyborg who patrols the streets in the name of justice.
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner
Starring Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Miguel Ferrer,
Dan O’Herlihy, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith
Oscar Wins - Best Sound Editing
Oscar Nominations - Best Sound, Best Film Editing
What happens when criminals rule the streets and the cops can’t keep them under control? Let a corporation take over the town with the promise of building a better city and a better cop, what could go wrong? One of the best 80s mash-up movies of all time, RoboCop has become a classic for a reason. Paul Verhoeven established a style he became known for later with films like Starship Troopers and creating satirical action hybrids that get asses in seats.
Welcome to Detroit, the newest asset in the Omni Consumer Products (OCP) portfolio and the setting for the sci-fi/action that’s not so subtle in its skewering of consumerism and corporate greed, two things that defined the 80s as a decade of excess. Officer Alex Murphy (Weller) is one of the best cops on the force, known for his dedication to duty and professionalism. He’s a family man and damn good at his job. It is those qualities that will also be sought in creating the titular hero of the film. Murphy is on the trail of a maniacal criminal with the least fearsome name, Clarence (Smith), who is the muscle for OCP CEO Dick Jones (Cox) and his quest to get Detroit to hand over the keys to OCP. With Clarence as his lackey, Dick wants to plunge Detroit further into despair so the city government will beg for his company’s money and protection all in service of their bottom line. Murphy and his partner, Lewis (the always great Nancy Allen), track Clarence and co. to an abandoned chemical factory but it’s all a set-up as OCP has its sights set on Murphy as their candidate for their newest project: a new kind of police officer, one they own and control. Murphy is mercilessly executed (with some sensational squib work) in a hail of bullets and shotgun shells. He is literally blown to pieces and left for dead but this is not the end for Officer Murphy, it is only the beginning. OCP take Murphy’s parts and substitute the rest of his body with robotics (all courtesy to a design by the legendary Rob Bottin) and thus RoboCop is born! Where the movie takes an interesting turn is the question asked: Is Murphy merely the face of RoboCop or is the man still inside the machine? Is RoboCop the tool that OCP will use to break Detroit or will he be the savior the city needs in its most desperate hour?
Now celebrating its 35th anniversary, RoboCop is an instant classic and one that I was enamored with from a young age. Should I have watched it when I was in single digits? Probably not because it is very violent and also has a nightmare inducing scene with a melting man (one of my favorites that’s NOT in Street Trash) named Emil who Murphy explodes with the front of his car. There are many memorable scenes like RoboCop’s first night on patrol which sets the stage for how he will deal with crime: he’s gonna blow the balls off ALL the bad guys! You have the amazing work of Rob Bottin who shows his range and ability when compared to something more organic, goopy, and gory like his work on The Thing. Ultimately, Murphy does survive his initial encounter with Clarence and returns the favor as he hunts him and his crew down culminating in a showdown with the corporation that gave birth to him. RoboCop also does what I’m sure most of us have dreamed of doing to CEOs from time to time and fires him by tossing him out the window, justice served. There are two sequels and a, in my opinion, needless remake that come out of this movie and you owe it to yourself to sit back and ride with RoboCop.
Your move, creep.