Synopsis: In a dystopic and crime-ridden Detroit, a terminally wounded cop returns to the force as a powerful cyborg haunted by submerged memories.
Stars: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Ray Wise, Paul McCrane
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Running Length: 102 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: Released in the summer of 1987 on the same day as Jaws: The Revenge and a re-issue of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, RoboCop was a unique package that landed at the right time amongst the larger studio fare being offered. Keep in mind that this was also the summer of The Untouchables, Predator, The Witches of Eastwick, Spaceballs, and Dirty Dancing (are you nostalgic yet?) and if you comb through the other films released that year you’d be able to tell why Paul Verhoeven’s dark comedy sci-fi was able to make its way to the fifteenth highest grossing picture of the year.
Yeah, I called RoboCop a dark comedy…because there’s ample amount of wink-wink-nudge-nudge references to pop culture and the changing face of news as entertainment. Peppered in between the story of a cop killed in the line of action reborn as “Part Man, Part Machine, All Cop” are hysterically lampoon-y commercials and the kind of graphic news footage that still wouldn’t be accepted in today’s society. Casting Entertainment Tonight television personality Leeza Gibbons as a news anchor was a nice touch in riding the line between hard hitting news and the carefully lobbed barbs at the kind of fluff stories Gibbons was accustomed to dishing on.
Comedy aside, its remarkable how ahead of its time the film was. Though some of the effects don’t play quite as well nowadays, it’s still a very watchable action/sci-fi film thanks to Verhoeven’s gonzo direction and the sleek special effects.make-up from Rob Bottin. Admittedly, the plot is a bit thin from screenwriters Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner, never really building upon its own original concept. It feels half-baked and not as fully thought-out as you may remember it being.
Peter Weller makes for a nice leading man even though the top half of his face is obscured for much of the middle half of the film. A last minute replacement to the cast, Nancy Allen would get more to do in future RoboCop installments (none of which are half as good as this) so here she’s regulated to a Girl Friday role more than anything. As far as 80’s villains go, you couldn’t ask for smarmier candidates than Ronny Cox and Miguel Ferrer, both are scene-stealing wonders as executives that stretch their roles into high camp.
Originally given the dreaded X rating for its copious amounts of gore, the restored film is pretty graphic but given the package it’s delivered in there’s a way to laugh off some of the more squirm inducing moments. A fun movie to revisit…especially for those of us that remember when the film was first released.
I remember! I’m glad the release of a lackluster remake at least prompts everyone to pull the original down from the shelf again.