Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"Robocop" (1987)

"Robocop" (1987)
Starring Peter Weller, Nancy Allen and Kurtwood Smith
Written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner
Directed by Paul Verhoeven

And now, "For Reelz" comes to one of my favorite movies of all time: "Robocop."

Yeah, that's right, I said "Robocop" is one of my favorite movies of all time.  And no, I'm not joking.  No, I'm not drunk (though I'm halfway through my first beer, so I might be the time I'm done).  There's something incredibly special about this movie, which despite its 80s production values barely feels dated at all.  Nowadays, sure, Robocop would move faster and there'd be lots of nifty futuristic junk cluttering up the frames, but this movie was made in 1987, and it's fantastic.

Detroit's failing economy has allowed a massive corporation, Omni Consumer Products (OCP) to contract with the city to run its underfunded, overstressed police force.  Why?  Because OCP is planning on razing the city of old Detroit to construct a futuristic paradise known as Delta City.  Slimy executive Dick Jones (Ronny Cox), in charge of Security Concepts at OCP, has designed a robotic police officer called ED-209, but when 209 proves a failure, OCP greenlights the "Robocop" project, the brainchild of Jones' rival, Robert Morton (Miguel Ferrer).  Family man beat-cop Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is transferred to one of the worst sections of the city as Morton reorganizes the police force to put "prime candidates" into position.  And when Murphy is brutally slaughtered at the hands of lifelong criminal Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith), Morton seizes the opportunity and Murphy is transformed into Robocop, a cyborg police officer.

Stripped of his humanity, but haunted by memories of his life and family, Robocop hits the streets and immediately begins dismantling crime in Detroit.  The program is deemed a massive success, even as the police force threatens to go on strike when OCP slashes their pay and benefits.  Robocop, along with his former partner Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), begins to unravel the conspiracy within OCP - the dark truth about the shiny new Delta City about to begin construction.  What does it have to do with Boddicker, and what is his connection to Dick Jones? 

Mix in some blistering satire, fun characters, some iconic lines, a few great action sequences and Basil Pouledoris' awesome score, and you've got yourself a recipe for a freakin' awesome movie that defies a lot of genre descriptions.  How do I peg "Robocop"?  An action-scifi-black comedy?  I guess, it's all of those things, with no one part overpowering the others.  One of the best parts of "Robocop" is the satire, the skewering of a corporate media culture that can laugh and put a good spin on just about any ridiculous tragedy.  The straight-faced news reports about nuclear plant meltdowns in the amazon or orbiting space lasers "accidentally" annihilating part of California are a downright riot. 

Hilarious also are Boddicker and his cronies.  Kurtwood Smith, a little more than midway through the film, delivers what I consider to be one of the all-time classic great lines in cinema: "Bitches, leave."  Smith delivers an excellent performance as a man completely without morals, one who not only breaks the law, but enjoys doing so.  The glee with which he goes about his crimes is infectious.  Ronny Cox is also excellent as slimy Dick Jones, but that's no surprise.  Cox has made a career out of playing self-righteous douchebag characters like Jones, or Captain Jellicho on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" or his recurring role as Senator Robert Kinsey on "Stargate: SG-1".  He's a fantastic actor, one that I always love to hate. 

Director Paul Verhoeven may have made his best movie with "Robocop."  Sure, I enjoyed "Basic Instinct" for all its trashy pulpiness, and the effects work on "Starship Troopers" is still stellar to this day, but it's "Robocop" that I return to over and over again.  Verhoeven is a filmmaker who likes to push buttons; whether it's the intense, explicit sexuality of "Basic Instinct" or gratuitous violence, the Dutch filmmaker has made it his life goal to push the limits of the Hollywood R-rating.  I think "Robocop" is where he does that best.  Case in point, a scene early on in the film where Jones introduces ED-209 to the board at OCP.  The robot opens fire on an executive, pumping dozens of rounds into the man until his body is nearly liquified - as soon as the gunfire stops, someone shouts "Oh god, someone call a paramedic!" even though the man is clearly far, far beyond any hope of medical help.  This is hilarious for how positively absurd it is.  This scene was cut down for the R-rated theatrical release, but restored for a number of DVD home releases (and, I believe, the blu-ray release; but word is that release suffers from terrible video quality, so I've thus far avoided it).

Ok so now I've had a beer, Southern Comfort with iced tea and now I'm on a gin and tonic, and frankly, "Robocop" fuckin' rocks.  If you can't see that, watch it again with this review in mind.  Maybe you'll change your thoughts on it.  This is a smart, hilarious action sci-fi flick that deserves your attention.