Robocop (1987)
By: Mr Intolerance on February 2, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
MGM (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DTS 5.1. Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, English Subtitles. 98 minutes
The Movie
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Daniel O'Herlihy, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Ray Wise
Screenplay: Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner
Country: USA
"Can you fly, Bobby?"

Murphy's a good cop, and a nice fella. Then he gets blasted into the next world by Clarence Boddicker and his gang, gets a few cybernetic enhancements and becomes Omni Consumer Products' brand new weapon in the war against crime in Old Detroit, RoboCop.

Seriously, RoboCop is one of the best films made, ever. It's even better than Conan: The Barbarian, and that's saying something. Paul Verhoeven really delivers the goods in this audience-pleasing, non-stop roller-coaster ride (pardon the cliché, but in this instance, it's true) of action, explosions and gleefully over-the-top mayhem.

"I'd buy that for a dollar!"

Good genre movies retain their brilliance after a number of years, and 20 years down the track RoboCop is still wonderfulness in video form. It works in any genre you want to cast it in: sci-fi, action, revenge, crime, noir – RoboCop is all things to all people. The performances are all excellent – Weller's take on the cyborg cop is unbeatable – understated and sympathetic, Miguel Ferrer is so sleazy it hurts, and Kurtwood Smith's take on bad-guy Clarence Boddicker is brilliance incarnate (if I ever want women to exit a place, I can employ Boddicker's immortal, "Bitches leave" – well that or I could just take off my shirt). The action never stops, and if anything gets more and more extreme as the film continues, certainly the guns get bigger and bigger. As do the explosions – which kept getting the production of the film into trouble with the authorities in drought-stricken Dallas. One or two notable examples would be the exploding petrol station and when bad guy Emil blows up the TV store – in this instance, the reactions of the actors are not faked, as stated on the commentary; they were rather peeved, apparently at the volume of fire and carnage – a little more than expected. Or would normally be considered safe, given their proximity to the conflagration.

"Oooh, guns, guns, guns!"

By the time we get to the Cobra hand-held assault cannons (Boddicker: "State of the art bang bang!" In reality, insanely high calibre sniper rifles, modified by the effects crew), we've seen some awesome firepower: Robocop's modified fully automatic Beretta, many different forms of handguns and shotguns, ED209's cannons, the hardware just keeps coming. It's an action film fan's fantasy come true and further, what every young boy wants, no needs in his film diet, full-stop. It even has a guy who after exposure to toxic waste fuckin' explodes when hit by a car!! Seriously – he bursts into a torrent of goo and slime!! How good is that?! What more can you possibly want?!

"I like it!"

Verhoeven makes a few rather dubious assertions on the commentary track – one rather grandiose piece of hyperbole likening RoboCop to Christ. No, seriously. He actually conceived RoboCop as being Jesus, but a uniquely American one, even down to Murphy's cruciform pose when he gets plugged by Boddicker's gang. If Jesus were American, he seems to be saying, when he's resurrected, he's going to come back with a gun and 40 cans of whoop-arse. I guess being an outsider and looking at US pop culture, I can understand the metaphor, but I still hope against hope that he was talking tongue-in-cheek. If not then I call "wanker" on him. No, make that "pretentious wanker."  Personally, I've always seen it as a riff on the traditional western (that overly-American genre, even when not made by Americans), just with fancier guns. Think: A Fistful of Dollars, where Clint Eastwood's nameless hero gets the snot beaten out of him before exacting a beautifully brutal revenge – not too different to this, in broad brush-strokes. Ditto High Noon – Gary Cooper's highly principled sheriff making a desperate one man stand against unbeatable odds with the backdrop of a corrupt society. The western mentality pervades this film – even Basil Poledouris' score reminds me of the westerns I watched as a kid, particularly when RoboCop is driving around Detroit looking for perps to arrest and crimes to stop. It's all about justice, and usually for the little guy, the Everyman.

One thing that this film is definitely on the money with (no pun intended), is it's scathing satire of post-Reaganomics, consumerist-gone-mad, materialistic, me first, gimme gimme gimme American society of the mid-80s. No, really – it's very cleverly done: the fake ads and news breaks (which ring true every time, especially the one for the 6000SUX) – an idea Verhoeven revisited equally successfully in Starship Troopers – the stereotype of the sleazy, coke-snorting yuppie executive who'd step over his own mother to get ahead, the lack of respect for the average Joe from management types (the Police strike over conditions reflecting Union troubles of the time, and rust-belt factories closing down – the latter ironically providing sets for the film itself), the threat of unfeeling corporatisation on a massive level (problems in Old Detroit? Fuck 'em, we'll just build a new city – who gives a rat's arse about actually solving the problem? And fuck the people who have to put up with it – they're not rich) – including organised crime, the growing inanity of mass entertainment: RoboCop addresses them all.   

The weird thing is (and I can still remember this from when the film came out), is that just like Dirty Harry and Death Wish some 15 or so years before it, this film was actually accused of fascism! I kid you not – that it portrayed a draconian police force meting out violent vigilante justice at the drop of the hat. I mean, please… RoboCop is portrayed as quite clearly fighting against the fascists – here represented by big business powerbrokers, who rule with absolute, dictatorial power. Didn't these fucking clods get the message of the film? If you're a bad guy, you deserve punishment. Some fucking people… Honestly, if it was left up to the kind of people who protest against movies of goodness like RoboCop, we'd all be sat 'round, sipping tea and watching Pride and fuckin' Prejudice.

Oh, and if you blink during the disco sequence, you'll miss Paul Verhoeven's minute cameo, dancing maniacally, before RoboCop drags Leon (played by Twin Peaks' Ray Wise – the guy who played Leland Palmer) out of the disco by his hair. Fuck him, he deserves it for the sheer stupidity of trying to kick a cyborg in his obviously armour-plated crotch.

"Give the man a hand!"

Like The Terminator, Predator 2, Aliens, or The Thing, Robocop is one of those films you can watch at any time, and enjoy it immensely, regardless of the context – first movie of the night, to be watched with mates over beers, last film of the night when you've had one too many – although, I gotta say, I can't watch the theatrical release any more, I'm totally down with the uncut version. Did I mention that I really like this film? There are very few films that I unconditionally recommend, and Robocop is definitely one of them - in my mind if you don't dig Robocop, I would think that you're either blind or retarded, or both. Fuck it – I'm going to go watch it again right now!
Robocop is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement. Paul Verehoeven's preferred ratio is supposedly 1.66:1, but it's a minor quibble when the picture looks this good. The only major visual "glitch" is where one extremely brief sequence of re-inserted footage occurs: the throat-spike sequence towards the end. The initial ED-209 sequence and Murphy's death scene are presented in their full, uncut (gory) glory. This seriously looks as good as it's ever gonna get on DVD. If you don't own this, you suck.
I nearly cried, it was that beautiful. Your choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 audio tracks.
Extra Features
An embarrassment of riches. There's a Commentary track (plays over the Theatrical cut of the film, unfortunately), a present day featurette, a couple of 1987 "making of" featurettes, some storyboards, some deleted scenes, some photo galleries, and even more on both discs. Seriously, this version of Robocop, you need a fuckin' day to sit down and enjoy this bastard. And, obviously, you also get two versions of the film – the original Theatrical cut, and the Uncut, which is the superior version of the film in my opinion.
The Verdict
The best version of this film available. I can't imagine a better transfer, or a more complete one. If you don't own this film, you're a loser, and your children will die alone. It's criminal that this film is not taught in schools.
Movie Score
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