Plot: The streets of Detroit have become overrun with crime, to the point where even the police struggle to provide protection. The level of violence is horrifically high, as crimes are getting more brutal and remorseless. A potential solution comes from the Omni Consumer Products Corporation, who seek to privatize the police force. With Omni’s resources, the police would be better equipped to deal with the violence in the streets. The master plan however is ED-209, a mechanized police unit that patrols the streets, but some recent malfunctions have the project delayed. In the meanwhile, a project called Robocop is put into motion, with newly dead officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) turned into a robotic long arm of the law. But is the transformation complete, or will old memories prove to slow down this otherwise impervious creation?
Entertainment Value: Robocop is a cinematic masterpiece, a slice of 80s magic that was brought to life in brilliant fashion by Paul Verhoeven, who I’d rank as one of my personal favorite filmmakers. As with some of Verhoeven’s other pictures, Robocop has the veneer of an almost exploitation picture, but has undercurrents of satire and social commentary throughout. Of course, you can soak in the movie as a purely violent, over the top action movie and it excels in that regard, but there is also so much more to Robocop than the gonzo genre elements. But man, those wilder moments are indeed wild and the movie is packed with memorable, outlandish sequences. The relentless violence on showcase at times is quite an experience, including the infamous Murphy death scene, which is beyond brutal. So Robocop runs with the action side of the material, giving us exciting shoot outs, chases, and even robotic showdowns, all with terrific special effects and impressive production values. The premise and the genre elements give Robocop a kind of b movie appeal, but there is an obvious polish and skill involved, from the production values to the sharp script. To me, this is like the best of both worlds, a big budget b movie that not only never shies away from the seedier genre touches, but is bombastic in how they’re executed. I love Robocop and I think it has held up incredibly well, so of course, it earns our highest recommendation.
A colorful ensemble was put together for Robocop, with Peter Weller in the lead, though he is often hidden inside the cyborg encasement. He brings a humanity to the machine however, with a strong performance before the accident and some good work even once the suit is in use. Weller’s one liners hit just right and while he is limited by the bulk and face plate of the Robocop suit, his performance is still terrific. Another standout is Miguel Ferrer who is able to channel a nice blend of 80s corporate sleaze and swagger, giving us an interesting character. He is able to be an asshole, do lines of cocaine, and rattle off insults, but remain somehow likable through it all, perhaps because his fellow business peers are so unlikable. Kurtwood Smith brings a nontraditional villain to the table, as Clarence isn’t an imposing 80s bad guy, instead he’s a cruel, ruthless criminal who seems quite believable. He might not be the ultimate villain of Robocop, but his performance is good and the movie is better for his presence. The cast also includes Ray Wise, Nancy Allen, and Dan O’Herlihy.