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USA 1987
Directed by
Paul Verhoeven
102 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

RoboCop (1987)

Although Robocop is a very silly film with naff 80s production values, some clumsy early CGI, gibbering cartoon villains and grievously unsubtle direction some credit is due to Verhoeven for pioneering a style of film which, understandably enough, came to dominate the multiplexes – dark, vigilante-cum-super-hero action movies with a “post-modern” self-awareness and a satirical twist.

In a scenario which is also now very familiar Verhoeven's film is set in Detroit of the near future where law and order has disintegrated. Alex Murphy (Peter Weller, an unlikely tough guy who had the previous year starred in the cult film The Adventures of Buckeroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension) has been transferred to South Detroit, the worst of the worst. On his very first day with his partner (Nancy Allen) he falls foul of Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and is shot to pieces. In a parallel story we are introduced to Omni Consumer Products (OCP) a corporation which is supplanting the conventional police force with a privatized alternative. These dudes use Murphy's mutilated body to build a cyborg policeman. The only problem is that they don’t realize that his memory is not entirely expunged and he wants revenge on his would-be killers.

Two years before Tim Burton's benchmark Batman, Verhoeven and screenwriters Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner conjure up a hi-tech masked avenger in a lawless city of the future. Whilst lacking the wit and bravura style of that film, Robocop similarly satirizes corporate greed and and a supine consumer society. It also lends a measure of wry humour to the orgy of violence (which may be seen in its full excessiveness the director's version which is available on DVD).

Although the combination has long since gone from being ground-breaking to being a templated norm, in its day it was a huge cross-over hit appealing to mouth-breathers and pop-cultural aficionadi alike

FYI: There were two sequels and a couple of television incarnations none of which were directed by Verhoeven and none of which managed to reproduce the success of this film.




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