|Written by:||Edward Neumeier & Michael Miner|||||Directed by:||Paul Verhoeven|||||Release Date:||1987|
Today on Sci-Fi Adventures, a low-budget science fiction movie with a silly title! I mean seriously, three vowels and all of them Os? It's ridiculous.
The writers tried to come up with something a bit less goofy and off-putting, but I'm glad they failed as personally I think the title's perfect, considering it's meant to be a brand name. I doubt that's a controversial opinion at this point though, as we've had three decades to get used to it. It's actually RoboCop's 30th anniversary later this very year and I wish I'd known this before telling everyone this was going to be the next thing I reviewed as I could've held onto it for a few more months and put it up on the day!
I love that logo they've got flying over future Detroit here as well, and I appreciate that they've made it obvious that the C is supposed to be capitalised so I know how I'm meant to type it. No space, big C, got it. Here's a fun fact for you: this is apparently the only shot in the movie that was filmed in actual Detroit and it's stock footage. The rest of the film was shot in Dallas (and a little bit in Pittsburgh) because it had a better skyline.
Okay, I'm going to recap this whole damn movie and share my thoughts as I go, so there will be SPOILERS ahead. I should mention that I've seen the film before, and the sequels, and the remake, and even a bit of one of the TV series, but I won't be spoiling anything that comes after this. Though I bought the trilogy on disc for a dollar (well, a pound) so I expect you'll get your spoilers someday.
These two are playing it straight, but the news immediately sets a jokey cynical satirical tone for the movie with its stories about a South African city state gaining a 3 megaton nuclear weapon, and the Star Wars Peace Platform losing gravity with the President on board. Wow, it's been a while since I've thought about the 'Star Wars' Strategic Defense Initiative project; it didn't quite make it to the 'space station with functional artificial gravity' phase in our timeline. Uh, non-functional I mean.
And then they interrupt their 3 minute news program with an advert!
The adverts and newscasts in this film are entirely for our benefit (everyone in-movie is tuned to Bixby Snyder) and they do a great job of world building. I want to say they're kind of a Paul Verhoeven trademark, but I haven't seen enough of his films to really know. They're definitely all over Starship Troopers at least.
Turns out that the Detroit Metropolitan Police has gone private, with Omni Consumer Products now running the department. Police union leaders are a bit annoyed with them seeing as their officers keep getting killed, but we see a clip of Richard Jones, OCP senior president, who basically says 'police work's dangerous, get over it'. This was going to be echoed by a wounded cop at the very end of the film, but the scene was cut.
Speaking of wounded cops, Officer Frank Frederickson survived the latest incident to identify Clarence Boddicker as being responsible for the murders. He's the unofficial crime boss of Old Detroit, wanted in connection with the deaths of 31 police officers. I wonder how many he has to kill before it's official.
Hang on, MediaBreak only lasted 2 minutes. They promised me 3!
These other cops have to get changed the slow way though, and we get glimpses of shots of both male and female nudity in the same locker room, another Paul Verhoeven trademark. Though the camera doesn't linger to draw attention to anything, as we're brought into the room with a long continuous take and it's got places to get to.
The mood in the precinct isn't great, with one guy even suggesting they strike, and it gets worse when desk sergeant Reed comes in to clear out Frederickson's locker and remove the name. Murphy gets his gun on, closes his locker, and the camera focuses on his own name plate for a bit. It's both grim foreshadowing and a way to burn the protagonist's name into the viewer's head!
Lewis decides she should drive until he knows his way around, but he steps in first, saying he usually drives when he's breaking in a new partner. Another thing he usually does is drive so fast up the car park ramp that he leaves a shower of sparks behind.
I love the cop cars in this by the way. Somehow if you take a 1986 Ford Taurus LX, paint it matt black and stick new lights on it, it does kind of look like it's from a grim version of the future.
Morton's sure that Dick Jones has gotten ED-209 working and wants to show off, which would be bad news for him as he's in charge of the backup plan; his success relies on ED-209's failure. Apparently Jones isn't someone with whom to fuck, but Morton disregards his friend's concerns.
The Old Man outlines his plan to basically turn Detroit into Dubai, with construction starting in six months. Everybody claps. First though they need to get rid of crime, and that requires a self-sufficient military robot armed with machine guns and rocket launchers, which Dick Jones introduces with the help of that wall full of TVs back there.
Bob Morton was right, he's got his ED-209 finished. ED stands for Enforcement Droid by the way, though it's apparently named after one of the writers, Ed Neumeier. I guess Mike-209 wasn't working out for them.
ED-209 looks good too, though Jones didn't bring it in here to stand around and look petty. He hands Kinney a shiny chrome Desert Eagle and tells him to threaten the police droid to demonstrate its ability to apprehend a criminal. Hang on, isn't an android supposed to be human shaped, not a hulking mech?
There were actually two ED-209s used to film this scene. One a full sized prop that could only stand there and look menacing, and one a tiny stop-motion puppet.
I love the design of this thing, with it helicopter weapon pods, scowling grill and microphone head. It was supposed to look a bit like a Japanese toy and I can see that. It's a beautifully ugly device, with no compassion, no restraint and no three laws. Plus it literally growls at people.
Instead of using green screens and expensive compositing, they did this effect Harryhausen-style, using a locked off camera and rear projected backgrounds when the robot's moving around the boardroom. Though for this shot he's likely in a tiny replica of the corridor, with a tiny little vase sitting next to a tiny little lamp.
Anyway there's bit of a glitch when ED-209 doesn't hear that the gun's been dropped on the carpet, finishes counting down from 20, and turns Kinney into a shower of gore. Kinney then falls back and crushes Delta City, covering the little broken buildings with blood. Symbolism!
The Director's Cut I'm watching adds even more carnage here to push it from tragedy to comedy. Verhoeven wanted Kinney to be so far past dead that Morton's line about someone calling a paramedic is actually funny, which makes sense to me. Using live ammo in a boardroom demonstration makes less sense, but that's evil 80s future corporations for you. If this was Weyland-Yutani they'd all be running from a malformed xenomorph clone right now.
Johnson had the right idea, as he was cowering under his desk when it all went down. The more I watch this movie the more he becomes one of my favourite characters. Not that I’ve seen this more like than like… two, three times maybe.
In fact Morton sees this as an opening, as he interrupts their conversation to remind the Old Man about the RoboCop programme developed as a backup plan. Turns out that he's been deliberately restructuring the police force and arranging for prime candidates to be sent into dangerous situations in the hopes that they'd get killed off in a timely manner. Okay Morton you win this round, you are the biggest asshole in this meeting right now.
Here's another fact for you, both of these amoral executives have also played upstanding Starfleet officers, as Miguel Ferrer played the Excelsior's first officer in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Ronny Cox played Captain Jellico in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Cox was actually playing against type here as Dick Jones, as he was better known for nice guy roles at the time. Not so much afterwards though.
Meanwhile Murphy's still out with Lewis, and they're taking a coffee break. We learn that Murphy has a wife and kid and that he tries to impress his son by twirling his gun like the guy on TJ Lazer. Some Chekhov's gun spinning for you there.
By the way Peter Weller also played a Starfleet officer once. In fact he was the admiral in charge of Starfleet in Star Trek Into Darkness! On the other hand Lewis's actress Nancy Allen never appeared in Star Trek. Though she was in Outer Limits once.
Their coffee break's interrupted when all units are called to intercept a silver panelled van driving off from a robbery.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country! Don't worry, I'm going to stop doing this now. I mean where can you even go from there?
Smith was also playing against type here, as he didn't typically play lunatic crime bosses. The glasses were apparently supposed to make him look a bit like Nazi bad person Heinrich Himmler, but personally I think he looks more like an evil maths teacher (in a good way).
Right now he's ranting and pouring boxes of money onto his friend Bobby to express his irritation at the fact that the guy burned it all when he blew open the door. Though he quits that and grabs a gun when he realises they've got a cop on their tail.
After exchanging enough rounds to kill all of them several time over, Murphy finally hits Bobby in the leg, and Clarence gets the others to pick him up and throw him at the cop car's window. So now we know that the cops care if other cops live or die, OCP executives can go either way, and Clarence's crew will straight up turn on each other. Plus the scene gives us the line "Can you fly Bobby?" which is awesome when Kurtwood Smith says it.
By the time Murphy and Lewis have shoved Bobby off the windshield and caught up, they find that the van's been parked in an abandoned steel mill. They call for backup and when none's available Lewis decides that they should go in anyway. And then split up when they're inside. Because they're totally going to be able to apprehend six of the worst armed criminals in Detroit on their own.
Lewis manages to sneak up on this one while he's taking a piss and the two get into a standoff, with him standing there with his fly open and her trying not to look. But she gets caught in his fly trap when she glances down for a moment, giving him a chance to knock her over the railings and down onto a pile of wooden beams. So the plan's going well so far.
By the way this character's called Joe Cox, but he laughs like the Joker. He thinks it's hilarious when he sees her knocked out down there and I get the feeling he's going to find a lot of other things hilarious too.
It’s the last episode the guy on the left will ever see though as he makes the incorrect assumption that he can reach down, grab a shotgun, aim and fire before Murphy can pull the trigger. Now all the boxes of burned money they dragged in have been covered in blood as well, and the TV's been taken out as collateral damage.
Unfortunately Murphy neglected to consider that there's still four other people here who can now sneak up on him, and it's Steve Minh and Leon Nash who get there first. You know, Clarence's got a pretty racially diverse gang here.
All the ammo they have can't kill quite him though so Clarence has to come over and put a pistol round in his head.
Lewis turns up just in time to see the protagonist get killed 25 minutes into the movie, while the others all walk out without noticing her... and without their boxes of money. I guess it's still early enough for them to go rob somewhere else.
These aren't actors by the way, this is a real crash team doing their actual job and coming up with their own lines as we watch them work from Murphy's point of view. The guy's really on the way out here, and he's flashing back to memories of his family.
We get a few glimpses here of scenes from his life in first person view, with his kid watching TJ Lazer and asking if he can do the gun twirl, and his wife saying that she has to tell him... something. Then the two of them are waving goodbye to him outside his house as he drives off down the road, leaving them behind.
And the film cuts to black.
Oh if you're wondering, the comic he's holding there is Dreadstar Annual #1 from 1983.
Anyway, Murphy finally gives up the ghost, or does he? There's a metaphysical RoboCop question for you to ponder.
They also stick some kind of glowing toilet seat over his face which makes a grid appear, and then screw it down with a drill. I have never understood what's going on there and that hasn't changed this time around.
The film doesn't reveal what RoboCop looks like right away, so our first glimpse of him is on that TV set he passes as he walks out. We're still in first person view, so that's Murphy's first glimpse of himself as well, though they wiped his memory during the process so that name doesn't mean a lot to him right now.
The OCP team brings their operation over to Metro West unannounced, wheeling their equipment through the precinct and pissing off Sergeant Reed. But his attention's quickly diverted to the cyborg walking behind a row of frosted windows. The cops get to see him from behind for a moment, then race down the corridor to find that they've got him obscured behind a mesh now!
Bottin didn't want Verhoeven to show off his whole RoboCop suit right away in case audiences had the wrong reaction, so the director revealed it a bit at a time, using robot sound effects and people's reactions to sell it as being something impressive. Of course the suit was on the poster and in the trailers so everyone knew what he looked like already, but the slow introduction still works great in the movie.
Incidentally, the trailer has music from that other Orion Pictures movie about a killer robot, so if you ever want to see RoboCop kicking ass to the Terminator theme that's something to check out.
Morton also tests that RoboCop can list his prime directives, which he does!
The guy was supposed to be an outright villain in the movie (he is the reason Murphy was sent to Metro West to die after all) but he became more likeable than intended due to the actor's performance. Maybe not in this scene though.
Oh also there's a fourth directive, but it's apparently so secret that RoboCop doesn't know what it is. We don't even know if Morton knows about it, as RoboCop keeps his mouth shut about it entirely.
The gloves on that costume are so big that even the Desert Eagle the filmmakers planned to use looked tiny in them, so instead they've given him a Beretta 93R burst-fire machine pistol, modified to nearly double its length.
The cops are impressed by OCP's 'Supercop', but they're a bit worried that they're going to be replaced. And they should be, as OCP's literally trying to get them killed so that they can enslave their corpses and turn them into cyborgs! Not that any of them knows that there's bits of dead cop in there, they just think he's a robot.
Lewis is starting to get an idea though, as that gun twirl shows her (and us) that some of Murphy's personality might be in there. Then he gets into a car and drives off into the night to fight crime, leaving a shower of sparks behind like before. And now he's finally gotten his RoboCop theme!
It's so weird seeing actual colours in the movie all of a sudden, due to all those futuristic products on the shelves. And hey there's Dreadstar again, amongst all those retro Marvel comics. They really are retro even for 1987, as that's Rom issue 38 on the left from January 1983, and the thief picks up Iron Man issue 142 from Jan 1981.
I've heard both characters mentioned as an influence for the RoboCop character, so it's a shame 2000 AD wasn't there on the shelf next to them considering one of the first designs created during development of his suit was basically Judge Dredd:
With all the old comics and ancient televisions around I was curious if this movie ever had a date mentioned in it, and it turns out that the script puts the bulk of it in the year 2043. But they deliberately left it unspecified in the final film, so it may well take place in a parallel universe 1983.
Though I do know that Total Recall takes place in 2084 and Starship Troopers is in the 23rd century, so Verhoeven's sci-fi movies kept jumping forward in time until Hollow Man.
Also look how fantastic the suit looks under those fluorescent lights with all the reflections. Modern films like the RoboCop remake and the Marvel movies use a lot of CGI suit replacement on their costumes, but there's no need for that here because they nailed it.
OCP have sent RoboCop onto the streets to dispense justice without any observation or even a partner, so they're lucky all he does to this guy now is clothesline him into an innocent fridge. Then he thanks the owners for their cooperation and leaves them to it. I guess the good thing about being RoboCop is that you get to skip the boring parts of police work, like doing paperwork and arresting people, and get straight to gun bending and unnecessary refrigerator destruction.
This is a very serious situation with a woman's life at risk, and it gets worse when one of them holds her as a human shield with a knife to her neck. But RoboCop does the math and figures that he's left his crotch exposed behind her skirt. A shot between her legs simultaneously ends the hostage crisis and any chance of him breeding again.
This feat of pinpoint groin targeting later inspired a group of filmmakers to create the infamous scene 27 for the crowd-sourced RoboCop remake from a few years back (website link), which continues to escalate the situation until a whole lot of criminals get their dicks shot off in gory unpleasant detail. So I've just gone and remembered that exists. Really good production values though.
Anyway, RoboCop's demonstrated here that he's great at pointing a gun at things and utterly hopeless at basic human empathy, as he can't comfort the traumatised victim like a human police officer could have.
There's a crowd of reporters and cops outside and the SWAT lieutenant's a little put off when his five minutes of fame are cut short by everyone bringing their mics over to RoboCop as he stomps inside. But he gets on the loudspeaker and keeps the guy talking by accepting his demands and discussing what kind of car he's going to get him (he suggests a 6000 SUX with shitty gas mileage and cruise control). Meanwhile RoboCop sneaks upstairs, uses his thermograph to scope out the room, then grabs the guy through the wall and punches him out of the window.
The movie Predator came out a month earlier than this and they'd used an inframetrics thermal video scanner for its clever infrared shots. RoboCop's crew on the other hand apparently just got the actors to strip off, painted them with fluorescent paint and used a black light. Can't say it didn't work.
Cut to another MediaBreak, as they report on the event and show RoboCop at a school, scaring the kids. Then there's an ad for 'Nukem', the fun family tabletop game where you get them before they get you! Which I guess is basically the video game Civilization except with cards.
Here we get a sinister mirror of that scene where RoboCop towered over the rapists, as Dick Jones manages to tower over everyone else in the restroom while sitting down. This has to be the first shot in cinema where the guy on the crapper with his pants around his ankles is set up as the threat.
One of the executives saw him go in there and when Morton starts talking with his friend, calling Dick a pussy, he quietly goes around and informs the other occupants to vacate pronto. When Morton's friend realises what's up he's out of there so fast that he leaves with an obvious piss stain on his expensive trousers. This movie's always tries to find the fun in every scene without being obnoxious about it.
Soon Morton and Jones are the only two left in the toilets, but the younger exec isn't letting himself be intimidated by his threats, despite the fact that his rival is obviously a little bit evil. The giveaway is when he grabs hold of Morton's hair without washing his hands first.
Also I've gotten really hungry all of a sudden.
RoboCop wakes up, opens the cage and walks out to stop some more crimes, despite the fact that it's apparently not time for crime stopping right now. I guess they leave it unlocked.
But Lewis is back in the movie for two minutes and she runs into him in the hallway before he leaves. She calls him Murphy and that definitely gets a reaction, but he's in too much of a rush to stay and chat. It's weird, I remember Lewis being in this film a lot more than she has been so far.
Turns out that RoboCop was right about there being a crime happening somewhere as he runs into Boddicker's goon Emil getting a free tank of fuel from a petrol station by scaring the crap out of the attendant. He seems genuinely pissed off that the guy's studying mathematics.
RoboCop confronts him with a phrase that Murphy said to him back in the steel mill and the two of them suddenly realise that they know each other. RoboCop reacts by freezing up and replaying the last few seconds in his head to think about it. Emil on the other hand reacts by leaking petrol everywhere and setting it off with a cigarette.
You'd think a cyborg wouldn't do so well in the middle of a massive explosion with all those organic bits in there getting cooked, but nah RoboCop's fine. He's basically indestructible at this part of the film, there's nothing anyone can do to harm him physically. I don't think he'll be driving home in that thing though.
Emil's halfway down the road by now, but RoboCop puts a bullet into his bike's tire and sends him skidding off into a car.
That spiky data port mechanism seems like a really awkward piece of engineering to me. Surely he losing some finger strength by having them hinged like that, with a thick metal block behind them instead of robo-tendons.
It's a fake hand on a stick held up in front of the actor by the way, not a clever glove. The actual clever thing about this he's a shiny cyborg with a shiny hand and a shiny eye visor and yet I've never once noticed any of the film crew being reflected.
Anyway RoboCop uses the recording of Emil from earlier to look him up with a photofit and from there he gets info on Boddicker's whole gang, plus the cops they've murdered.
The scene does a great job of communicating exactly what RoboCop's thinking with just a computer monitor, music and a clip of Lewis's voice from earlier. He knows that he's Murphy, he knows that Clarence killed him, but he's also learned his home address and that's the lead he's going to follow first.
So he drives down to his old house in the suburbs but finds that it's empty and for sale. We see the first person flashbacks from the hospital scene again, only this time he's standing in the same rooms that they happened in. He also finds a burned photograph of himself and his family at Halloween which triggers a memory showing the photo being taken from his point of view. Which is cool.
Along with the burned photo there's also dead flowers and a cracked mug here with World Class Husband written on it, so the clues seem to be pointing towards her smashing and burning anything that reminded her of him.
Now that RoboCop has an idea of what he's lost he storms out in a rage, putting his fist through a computer screen on the way out. He's not dispassionately resolving routine crimes any more, he's going out to get justice for his own murder.
ARREST MODE SUSPECT: NASH, LEON_' on screen to get across what he's up to with the minimum of exposition. How he knew that Clarence's friend Leon would be at this club I've no idea, but he's found him, and he's probably just broken his foot with his Kevlar laminated titanium groin as well.
There's another brief glimpse of naked tits in this scene just in case people forgot that it's R rated and a brief glimpse of the Paul Verhoeven dancing like crazy as well, filmed as a joke while he was trying to give the extras a bit of direction. I can see why they needed the help, as this future 80s music is pretty bad.
One thing I really like about this film is how much RoboCop himself drives the story, though Bob Morton hijacks the plot for a bit here as he enjoys a night at home with some drugs and a pair of models. Everything's great until Clarence Boddicker strolls in with a gun and requests that the "Bitches, leave".
The disc contains a video message from Dick Jones, who explains that he's still a little bit pissed that Morton went over his head and pushed his RoboCop project in place of ED-209, so he's sent the unofficial crime boss of Old Detroit over to murder him. Morton may have been reassigning cops to get them killed, but it turns out Jones has been working with the man who killed them! That's extra evil!
The grenade goes off, the house explodes and Bob Morton exits the movie about one hour in. So that's simplified things a bit, getting rid of a main character and tying the two main villains together.
In fact in the next scene Boddicker even repeats a line Jones said earlier, about good business being where you find it, as he tries to arrange a discount at a cocaine lab. Way back at the steel mill some of his crew mentioned how they were planning to use their hard stolen cash to buy drugs to make more cash, and that's exactly what he's up to right now.
People say that invincible heroes are boring because there's no drama when there's no risk of them getting killed, but this scene says otherwise. You've just got to put a Basil Poledouris track over the top, it can work!
There's lots of quick cuts here which were necessary due to the guns jamming up during filming, but we often get to see both RoboCop and his targets in the same shot, and I like that. A shot of someone firing a gun followed by a shot of someone getting hit is about the dullest possible way to film a shootout.
We lose another one of Boddicker's buddies here as Steve Minh also exits the film, but Joe lives to laugh another day as he's knocked over a railing onto some boxes. Hey that's that same thing that happened to Lewis when she tried to arrest him earlier!
RoboCop's obviously going a bit too far here, beating a guy up while reading him his Miranda rights, especially considering that as far as he's concerned this is where the trail ends. He doesn't know that he's working for anyone, there's no critical information he needs to get out of him to save lives or even solve a crime, he's just doing this because he's pissed off. Though the guy did torture and murder him, so I think that's probably a sign he's recovering his humanity. Plus windows are kind of like fridges and no one cared when he threw someone into one of them.
Now Boddicker's in the same situation he put Morton in earlier, as he tries to convince the unstoppable killer to stop killing him. He reveals that he's working for Dick Jones, who's basically RoboCop's boss, but that doesn't work. Except it kind of does, as it reminds him that he's a cop and that actually makes him pause. He's regained enough of Murphy's personality to really want to choke the life out of this bastard, but he's also regained enough to bring him to justice instead.
And watching picture in picture playback of Clarence's confession on repeat doesn't count as thinking, though it does make it absolutely impossible for anyone in the audience to be in doubt of what he's here for. The movie's really good at putting you inside the cyborg's head.
By the way, this OCP building is actually Dallas City Hall with an awesome matte painting extension on top. The actual building stops just above the top of the diagonal bit.
RoboCop's thinking more like Murphy than a machine at this point, but that doesn't help him when directive 4 starts to shut his body down. He's squirming around on his knees right now like Captain Kirk in pain.
Wait, hang on, the man who screwed up own his big presentation by giving his defective robot live ammo actually thought ahead and did something sensible this time? I hope he's given ED-209 a similar directive about not murdering OCP's senior officers or else he's a total idiot for standing in the same room as it.
He doesn't quite look like he's in the same room though, because his part was filmed first and then projected frame by frame into the background of the miniature set for the puppet to act against. But ED-209's not the only robot here that can turn into an stop motion puppet, as lil' puppet RoboCop grabs the thing's gun pod arm and turns it around to shoot his other gun pod arm off!
His invulnerability is officially over, not just because his armour's been cracked, but because we know there's something out there that can damage him. Plus now that we can see the expression in his exposed eye he's not an implacable force of nature any more, he's a dude with robot bits who's visibly scared of getting them shot off.
Poor ol' microphone head. He was born with guns for hands, he can't hear very well and he isn't good inside buildings. His friend Dick Jones gave him a chance to show off what he is good at in front of the whole board, and then they freaked out at him even though he hit his target with every shot! All he'd ever known was the inside of OCP, they never taught him the difference between a yuppie and a psychopath. But Dick Jones still believed in him and gave him a second chance to do him proud. And then a tiny little robot man who isn't even a proper robot made a fool out of him. Now he has to wait here on a staircase until brave technicians find a way to lift him out.
Though life isn't a bed of roses for RoboCop either right now, as he finds that SWAT lieutenant from earlier waiting for him in the car park with a firing squad. Funny how when someone at OCP needs backup there's dozens of cops around with delay at all.
But RoboCop took a ridiculous amount of shots to kill back when he was human and even now he's still agile enough to roll through the gap and drop to the next floor down. He makes it down to level three doing this before a cop catches him. Fortunately it's Lewis and she gets him into the back of her Taurus. Lewis is back in the movie! The others actually start shooting at her as well here, just in case there was any doubt that they're a bunch of OCP's tools.
Cut to a giant dinosaur roaming the streets, with terrified pedestrians pointing and backing away.
The movie's full of callbacks like this. We get another one right afterwards when MediaBreak reveals that the Star Wars Peace Platform's screwed up again. This time the laser cannon misfired at Santa Barbara, scorching 10,000 acres of residential land and killing two former US presidents! This thing was either built by Dick Jones' team at OCP or it really hates presidents. In other news, the Detroit police are actually going on strike soon.
Later at OCP, Clarence Boddicker walks in and tries to chat up Kurtwood Smith's girlfriend (she's the actress playing Dick Jones' secretary).
Dick gives him shit for spilling his guts to RoboCop earlier seeing as his memory is admissible as evidence, even though he knows he just did the exact same thing during their encounter by telling him that he "had to kill Bob Morton because he made a mistake." And he totally didn't have to kill Morton! He only did that because he was better at being an amoral self-interested executive than he was, and it was making him look bad.
Clarence doesn't much appreciate being yelled at and told to kill RoboCop by the guy whose company built the thing, but Dick tells him about all the drugs, gambling and prostitution that'll be going on when 2 million workers show up to work on Delta City, and he begins to see the benefit in working with him.
So the purpose of the ED-209 program was to end crime in Detroit to make way for Delta City, and the purpose of the RoboCop program was as a backup in case it failed... and now it turns out that Dick Jones is actually helping a guy make the crime worse? Man, OCP really is a damn mess of rival execs working with conflicting agendas.
I suppose it makes sense that Lewis couldn't think of anywhere better to go as she's been missing for most of the movie. The only locations that she knows are Metro West, OCP's car park, that place she bought her coffee, and here.
They've gone back to the mill where the film's Joker created the film's Batman because Batman's full of holes and needs to sort himself out. Fortunately he seems to have the OCP Police 001 RoboCop Owner's Manual in his flash memory, as he knows how to carry out basic repairs. Well, he knows how to unjam his leg and unscrew his helmet at least.
Oh damn I only just realised... OCP is an anagram of cop. Mind blown.
And man does that make-up stand up to scrutiny, even in this bright lighting. They must have temporarily cut the actor's ears off to get it to fit. One thing that took a fair bit of scrutiny for me to notice is that he's got a metal jaw as well, which I guess explains why he's not so worried about covering his mouth when bullets are flying. He doesn't seem to have to worry about shaving any more either, so if he ever wants a proper cop moustache he'll have to attach one.
RoboCop finally gets to sit down and almost have a conversation with someone here, asking Lewis what happened to Murphy's wife and kid. Which shows that he's still thinks of Murphy as a separate person, he hasn't got memories of being him. Though at the same time he's got an emotional attachment to Murphy's loved ones. He's regaining his feelings and right now he's feeling a bit depressed about the whole thing.
These were real buildings on a real street by the way (all hosed down for those beautiful post-rain reflections). They found one which was going to be torn down and got permission to rig it up with explosives. Apparently though the explosions were a little too big and the actors a little too close, so Kurtwood Smith's coat got set on fire. But they definitely get the point across that one shot from one of these guns could actually kill Robocop... maybe. He did walk out of an exploding petrol station earlier.
So they ride off into the night to murder RoboCop at the steel mill.
Lewis has actually managed to get a good night's sleep in this place, though she was woken up when RoboCop pulled a dick move and starts firing his giant gun right next to her bed. It's doubly a dick move in fact because he started the scene by walking off camera all depressed with a gun in his hand, making it seem like he shot himself off screen. But no he was actually shooting at some jars of baby food she was kind enough to get for him to eat (triple dick move). It's kind of symbolic though considering that they have a baby's face on them and he can't have a family any more.
Anyway Boddicker's crew have followed the tracker here and they're ready for an old school Wild West showdown. RoboCop decides to make it easy for them for some reason by calling down to them and he only gets away with it because they can't aim for shit. Though he does manage to take out Joe, so the other three give chase, with Emil taking the van.
Emil takes so damn long driving after him that RoboCop manages to get downstairs in time to lure him into his toxic waste trap. Somehow firing 9 shots into the windscreen isn't enough to kill Emil, but it does cause him to crash the van right into the tank and get washed out of the back in a flood of some chemical that really shouldn't have been left here like this.
Whatever's in there, RoboCop don't want none of it on him. I've never seen him move so fast.
The thing is, I don't really get why Boddicker started driving around in the first place. He yelled at Emil and Leon to "Cut him off", got into his 6000 SUX, then did a U-turn and drove off in the opposite direction. He's after a slow moving cyborg with a tracking device, it can't be this complicated to corner him.
It's a shame really, because this film's so comic book at times that Emil had a good shot of coming away from this with super powers. Daredevil got blinded by toxic waste and that's how he got his heightened senses right? Emil didn't get the super hearing upgrade himself but it seems like his vision is failing as he stumbles right into the road and gets liquefied by Clarence's car.
It's down to Leon and Clarence now... and then Clarence goes and flips his car into the river. But he's okay! In fact he's able to climb out and immediately bull's-eye Lewis with his Desert Eagle when she drives up to check on him. His next few shots are more misses than hits, but those that hit are enough it was enough, as she tumbles down the embankment into the water.
Nash spots him and... puts his RoboCop killer gun down, running for a crane instead. Well, uh, I guess that works too, if you know how to use it. Meanwhile Lewis is crawling towards Clarence's Cobra Assault Cannon, propped up on a rock near his upturned car.
It's a race as both partners rush to save their friends, and the winner is... Leon, who drops a bunch of metal beams onto RoboCop's head. But Clarence doesn't get much chance to celebrate before Lewis blows her rival up with a single shot. Nash is dead, he's on his own. Clarence Boddicker vs. RoboCop, the rematch.
He had no intention of arresting Boddicker here by the way, no matter what directive #3 says. It's only #4 that gives him problems, those others are more like prime suggestions.
RoboCop's got a line here before he shoves the beams off himself where he tells Lewis that "They'll fix you, they fix everything," and that's a bit ominous coming from a cop shot by Boddicker in a steel mill who was then mind-wiped and turned into a cyborg.
I never got why the exploding model looked so wrong in this shot, with the bottom of the head losing all detail and becoming curved. But this time I paused and checked, and it's the microphone bit at the top that's fallen down! You probably already knew that, but I've learned something today!
RoboCop then goes and tries the exact same thing he did last time he visited OCP, only this time he's lucky enough to catch Dick Jones unprepared and in a board meeting, and he's got that recorded confession to show them. "I had to kill Bob Morton because he made a mistake."
Again the movie does a great job of illustrating the problem RoboCop has here, as arresting OCP officers is his kryptonite. Fortunately Dick Jones has one vulnerability that Lex Luthor doesn't typically have, as the Old Man can simply fire him. Apparently that's official enough for RoboCop's software as the message flashes away, visually demonstrating that the problem's gone now.
This is the third hostage situation in the movie by the way. The first he solved by shooting the hostage taker, the second by dropping them out of a window, and now he solves the third by shooting them and then dropping them out of a window.
Fortunately it seems like the folks who made Die Hard the following year were able to learn from RoboCop's mistakes, as they dropped the actual actor instead. I can't remember what they did in Batman the year after that though. Man, I never noticed until now how many iconic 80s action films feature villains being dropped off tall buildings at some point.
Then RoboCop tells the head of the corporation that turned his corpse into their product to call him Murphy, he smiles, and the title comes on.
And so the film ends with the hero unable to ever have a normal life, riots in the streets, the police on strike, the corporations still running everything, and that Star Wars laser satellite is presumably planning its next move against another unfortunate former president. But it feels like a happy triumphant climax because RoboCop's won the two victories that the audience cares about: he's taken down all the people who've been assholes to him, and he's taken back his metaphorical soul.
Which is why I'm glad it stops so abruptly instead of hanging around to dwell on the consequences. There a deleted scene with a final MediaBreak that shows that Lewis in hospital, confirming that she's not a RoboCop now, but I think it works better to finish at the high point.
The last act goes from the steel mill, to a car chase, to ED-209, to the OCP boardroom, to Murphy stating his name, so ending with a news report about a wounded cop would've completed the film's symmetry and bookended the movie... but who'd even care?
I'm so glad that I still like RoboCop! It's been a while so I couldn't be sure it held up to my fond fuzzy memories of it. In fact the last time I saw the film was so long ago I was probably watching it from my old full frame pan and scan VHS tape, after fast forwarding past 15 minutes of adverts for Virgin Comedy Club's stand-up comedy videos, RoboCop: the home computer game, and Foul Play: a compilation of the best football blunders.
Wikipedia states that the movie deals with themes such as "media influence, gentrification, corruption, authoritarianism, greed, privatization, capitalism, identity, dystopia, and human nature." So that makes my job here easier, I can skip over all that. Though Wikipedia also mentions that it's a 'cyberpunk action film', which surprised me. I guess I've never thought of it like that, because a: it's not all that action packed and b: it doesn't have an obvious Blade Runner or Johnny Mnemonic cyberpunk aesthetic going on. They created their futuristic Detroit setting by using matte paintings to extend buildings, sticking up a few Delta City billboards and putting 'It's Not My Problem' on the television sets.
But that's always worked for me, as the film's a cynical caricature of 80s America written by a former corporate executive and a music video director from the US, and directed by an outsider from the Netherlands, that takes their perception of what was going on at the time and exaggerates it to comic absurdity. Thieves are robbing cash registers with automatic weapons, businessmen are assassinating each other, cars get you 8 miles to the gallon and TJ Hooker has a laser gun. But they kept the film from straying over the line from satire to campy cartoon, so it's just over the top enough to be consistently entertaining. Which is something the 2014 remake forgot to be. The film's got the fun kind of graphic violence and murder!
Though it takes the main character's journey from man to machine and back deadly seriously, and that's one of the things that saves it from being a goofy cyborg B-movie. The film tells the story of a cop with amnesia who's brainwashed by a corporation he works for to give up his own agency, humanity and family and become a soulless drone. But it doesn't rush into developing Murphy to heighten the tragedy, so we're still learning about who he was and what exactly he lost well into the RoboCop part of the film. This means the biggest emotional punch is saved for when it's needed to give him a kick in the ass to go off on his own, become a true protagonist and reclaim his identity. Which is when protagonist #2 Bob Morton hands the film over to him.
I never thought of amoral yuppie Bob Morton as being a protagonist before, but he really does have a lot of screen time as our POV in OCP. Plus for all his faults he seems to give a damn if his product works, he's in conflict with both major antagonists, and he's weirdly sympathetic due to Miguel Ferrer's performance. He's not the only actor bringing something of their own to the role though, as Peter Weller plays RoboCop like a mime in shining armour and Kurtwood Smith seems to have considered the script to be a list of suggestions. But in a good way! Seems like Paul Verhoeven knew how to get the best out of the talent working for him.
The film wasn't blessed with a huge budget, but it was blessed with artists like animator Phil Tippett, make-up effects artist Rob Bottin and matte painter Rocco Gioffre who give it visuals that still stand up today. And a few that don't, but they're awesome too so whatever. Though the film's ultimate weapon is that score by Basil Poledouris, which makes it very clear that you should give a shit about what's going on. And I'm not just talking about the iconic RoboCop theme, though I do keep catching myself humming it.
I'm not entirely sure where I'd place RoboCop in my personal movie chart, but top 20 feels plausible. This is one of my all time favourites and I'm glad that revisiting it with a magnifying glass after all these years hasn't hurt it one bit.
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