Robocop 2 (1990)
By: Julian on July 23, 2011  | 
MGM (USA) | Region 1, NTSC | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 117 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Irvin Kershner
Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Daniel O'Herlihy, Tom Noonan
Screenplay: Frank Miller, Walon Green
Country: USA
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Peter Weller and Nancy Allen return in Irvin Kershner's (The Empire Strikes Back) sequel to what is possibly the greatest action movie of all time, Paul Verhoeven's inimitable Robocop. Kershner's second instalment, scripted by Walon Green and graphic novel king Frank Miller (Sin City), is certainly not as good as the first, but it is still a favourite of mine: a great follow-up with some terrific action sequences, set in the rapidly degenerating concrete jungle of Detroit.

Robocop 2 is best watched by those who have seen the first film – not only because the 1987 original is required viewing, but because this sequel shows the disintegration of Motor City from a seedy crime-infested metropolis to a quasi-apocalyptic wasteland of broken shop fronts, drug-addled children and morally bereft governments. Robocop, aka Officer Murphy (Peter Weller), returns to fight crime in his good city. His job is made all the more difficult by a new, highly popular designer drug dubbed Nuke, which is being used and peddled by kids and hardened criminals alike. When Robocop responds to an armed robbery being committed by a young boy high on Nuke, his programming leaves him defenceless, although his inability to shoot a child is fine by his assailant, who pops him in the head and seriously messes up Robo's wiring. The Detroit Police, a privatised organisation, commissions the corrupt Omni Consumer Products (OCP) to manufacture new Robocops, but the prototypes are highly deficient (although not quite as deficient as Robo's predecessor in the first film, ED-209).

As the Nuke problem explodes and drug barons like Cain (Tom Noonan) cash in on the madness, the police force decide that it might be worth fixing Robocop after all. They get OCP on the job, and they reprogram the cyborg to spout proverbs at gun-wielding criminals: new Robo is a shell of his former self, and commands about as much authority as a kitten.

Unlike the totally disposable third movie, which sanitises Robocop into limp PG-13 territory, Robocop 2 revels in the violent action that defined the first movie. While Kershner doesn't spill as much claret as Verhoeven did, there are enough shootings, knifings and even a dissection to please the crowd. Another defining feature of Robocop was its socio-political overtones, although Verhoeven's razor-sharp commentary is far duller here, with screenwriters Miller and Green opting instead for the sledgehammer-obvious approach: OCP's red, white and black emblem that resembles the Nazi flag is about as subtle as it gets. Even so, this isn't particularly distracting – Robocop 2 is a B-movie that seeks to carbon copy the fail-proof methods of the original. It's no surprise that the more nuanced elements of Verhoeven's movie were not particularly well-translated.

Nancy Allen appears once again as her Officer Lewis, although she doesn't have nearly as much fun as Weller does with his new and decidedly unimproved Robo, who waltzes around the first half of the movie proselytising at hardened criminals and budding child thieves alike (an interaction with the latter prompts the best line of dialogue in the film). Even more fun is had when Robo performs electrical harakiri in order to return to his usual self. Noonan channels Kurtwood Smith's hysterically insane antagonist in Robocop, with inferior results. Cain's boy sidekick comes across as the more unsettling villain here. Eagle-eyed viewers will enjoy Miller's cameo role as 'Frank the Chemist'.

Miller and Green's screenplay, as well as being not subtle at all in its social commentary, is a pretty messy affair. It lacks the clarity of the original, with threads of plot unravelling all over the place, and all of the bunkum about OCP, the Detroit Police and corrupt business interests are held together only by Cain and Robo's fight for the souls of the city. However, Kershner's lens leers across the utterly misanthropic location with a seedy glee, and this mitigates much of the script's woes: something bad is happening everywhere in this lawless town, and Robo as the sole gunslinger with a firmly fixed moral compass gives Robocop 2 a Western feel. The stop-motion animation is terrific fun; visual effects maestro Phil Tippett brings great technical professionalism to this movie.

I'm willing to forgive some of the problems inherent in Robocop 2, mainly because the action moves at such a cracking pace that we don't have too much time to notice them. Kershner's motives are far less pure than Verhoeven's: a theme of utter mean-spiritedness and misanthropy, punctuated with a few lashings of ultra-violence, greases Robocop 2's gears, and while this makes for a less rewarding film than the first, it certainly ensures maximum entertainment value.
The picture, presented in 1.85:1 with 16:9 enhancement, is clear for the most part. About as good as one would expect from a twenty-year-old film.
The English audio track is presented in Dolby 5.1. The sound is not particularly well-balanced, with the dialogue often far quieter than other sounds. English subtitles (and a raft of others) are provided.
Extra Features
Sadly, almost none: a theatrical trailer barely constitutes a feature.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
This is a great sequel that replicates the spirit of the original, even if it doesn't parallel its excellence. The Detroit in Robocop 2 is an uncompromising wasteland that seethes with psychopathic, drug-addled villains. Robo has some work to do here, and after a couple of hilarious bumps-in-the-road, he meets expectations admirably. If you catch only one Robo sequel/spin-off, make it this one.

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