So I watched the new 'Robocop' movie, which wasn't all that bad to be honest with you, but afterwards I needed to a refresher. So happens I own director Paul Verhoeven's Director's Cut of his 1987 bloody epic, and while 'Robocop - 1987' might be a bit dated in 2014, it still a 100 minutes of rock solid awesome.
Dateline Future Detroit, and it's a hellhole. I'm from Detroit so you will get no jokes from me in regards to my city and its current state. The Detroit Police Department has been privatized, run by the Omni Corporation, and I gotta admit I'm not really sure what Omni Corp is doing for the police department other than underfunding the cops and getting them killed.
What we do know is that OmniCorp vice president Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) has been investing heavily in his 24 hour policing machine, the ED-209! Man, that ED-209 will be just awesome… if it worked and didn't indiscriminately kill people. Other than that, it's awesome. Fortunately for OmniCorp, super slimy sub executive Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) has a backup plan for OmniCorp, and all needs for his plan to work is an unfortunate volunteer.
Say Hello to Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) who has just transferred from the South District, where apparently it's all good, to the worst district on the planet Earth. First thing Murphy does is meet his new partner Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), next thing Murphy and Lewis do is answer a call… and the last thing we can say is that Alex Murphy has just experienced the worst first day on a job… ever.
Murphy is dead, more or less, tortured and killed by one of the more eviler men in cinematic history, one Clarence J. Boddiker (Kurtwood Smith). Clarence and his gang are just… awful. Man, I don't know what to tell you about these cats but they exist only to create chaos and little else. However, Murphy's deadish state is good for Bob Morton who now has a volunteer, so to speak, for his 24 hour cop program. And Robocop is born.
Robocop on the DPD is like the best cop ever. He takes down rapists, domestic terrorists, stickup men, all with brutal impunity. And the thought was that since they wiped his bullet damaged brain, there would be personality issues, but alas, who really knows how the brain works? Not OCP, scientists, that's for sure. Soon Murphy starts to remember his old life, his wife, his kid, and most importantly those who murdered him, and it's time to make them pay.
Easier said than done because corporate America, especially in the Reaganomical 1980's, was a bitch. What do psychopathic street gangs have to do with Corporate greed? I do believe the message we are receiving is that they are one in the same. One side just happens to wear suits and work in tall buildings. That would be the only difference. Insane violence and clever satire shall ensue. En Masse.
I remember when 'Robocop' first was released to theaters back in '87 and the very concept just seemed kind of stupid to me. Note that I was in my late teens, in college and took myself way too seriously at the time, so a movie about a robot cop, despite the R-rating, seemed juvenile. But some friends dragged to the theater and whoa… between 'Robocop' and John Carpenter's 'They Live' which would come out the following year, we have two of the most politically charged indictments of the decade of excess, all not so subtly hidden under the genre of science fiction, that have ever been committed to film.
Politics aside, even though it is a key element to 'Robocop', the movie itself is a trip. Peter Weller gives a surprisingly nuanced performance as Murphy / Robocop, and he does most of this wearing a silver shield over face. Ronny Cox spent the majority of the decade playing corporate jerks as his Dick Jones is almost the poster child for corporate irresponsibility, and every time I see Kurtwood Smith on 'That 70's Show' he still gives me chills. At any moment I figure he's capable of murdering the entire cast of that show. The violence is insane, cartoonish even, and the presentation of the violence is more prominent in the Director's Cut. Strange, but the high level of violence and the ridiculousness of the violence actually gives 'Robocop' a lot of its humor. When Robocop shoots a guy in the nutsack or ED-209 riddles some schmuch with 1,000 bullets, it probably shouldn't be funny, but it is. The news stories hosted by Entertainment Tonight's Leeza Gibbons and the late Mario Machado add to the satire with their wacky stories on the state of the world at the time of this warped future, not to mention the crazy commercials and awful sitcoms that show in the background. We are presented, through satire, America at ptentially its absolute worst in this movie 'Robocop'.
But it is the satirical representation of corporate America, privatization, corporate greed, corporate back biting and brutal positional maneuvering which makes 'Robocop' special. Actually, a lot of things make 'Robocop' special, but this in particular because this is what drove the movie forward. Bob Morton and Dick Jones might be a little over the top, everything in 'Robocop' is over the top, but it's all to illustrate the basic premise of the deadly folly of corporate greed, and we will always love 'Robocop' because of it.
The new film has some of the same elements, but what it's missing is the satirical violence, and most importantly the humor. Even the 'Robocop' sequels couldn't come close reproducing what Paul Verhoeven created with 'Robocop'. Paul Verhoeven is a genius. 'Showgirls' non-withstanding… but even 'Showgirls' has its moments.