johnlink ranks ROBOCOP (1987)

I’m trying to figure out what this decade’s ROBOCOP is. The criteria is fairly simple. Take a movie which has a moderate (but obvious) message, but which otherwise is an average action flick, and let it gestate in culture for fifteen years. It will get beat up, laughed at maybe, but then public opinion will be resurgent because defenders will say its not as bad as everyone says. Then make the longer, more violent, and stronger edition of the movie readily available. It then becomes overhyped, and overrated.

If I had to pick something like that… I’d probably go with DAREDEVIL. I haven’t seen the director’s cut, but I know a lot of people swear by it.

I watched ROBOCOP (1987) on 2.4.09. I will call it my first viewing because it was the first time I saw the ‘X’ rated version, with the uber-violence (its now available as a Criterion release… go figure). I did see the regular version when I was 10 or so, but have really no recollection of it. The only scene which felt at all familiar was the scene where he removes his visor.



There is certainly a message here, with the director (Paul Verhoeven) making an attempt to skewer everything from corporate greed, to 80s machismo, to television, to consumerism. He goes about this in almost exactly the same way he later does in his film STARSHIP TROOPERS. In fact, geek culture is quick to embrace ROBOCOP and quick to trash STARSHIP TROOPERS (though that has more to do with its indifference to the source material) despite the fact that they are strikingly similar in tone.

My problem with ROBOCOP is that it ultimately becomes a hypocritical essay in film. Verhoeven knocks sexual consumerism with the oft spoken line “I’ll buy that for a dollar” repeatedly spoken by a guy on television surrounded by scantily clad women. But he has no problem with the glorification of violence, sparing no amount of blood, and killing off innocent characters while others seem unfazed. And if Verhoeven is doing to make a point, which I find to be one possible argument, then he’s actually biting the hand of the audience. He’s inviting them to watch and enjoy this spectacle, even as he mocks them for doing so.

There’s quite a bit I do like in the film though. I love the musical theme, which sounds like it could be straight out of a western. I love that the effects hold up (except for the stop motion of the ED-209). And I love that they have this badass chick, though she is defeminized with her short hair, the name Lewis, and the fact that she changes in the locker room with the guys, an effect Verhoeven liked so much that he repeated it in STARSHIP TROOPERS. Apparently, his vision of the future must include massive public showers and locker rooms. SCORE: 5


Ultimately, this is an average action film. I know it’s had imitators since, but I didn’t find myself getting overly connected to what was happening. Except when the villain ran over the guy who was covered in toxic waste and his head flew off. I laughed at that. Damn, I’m the mindless guy who was taken in by the spell of the uber-violence. Shit! SCORE: 6


Surprisingly okay. Peter Weller is effective in the title role. Ronny Cox and Kurtwood Smith are solid villains. Nancy Allen does her thing as RoboCop’s partner. The guy who annoyed me was the African-American villain with the hyena laugh. I know the laugh was supposed to be annoying, but I was more annoyed with the blatant stereotyping. SCORE: 5


In these times of procedural cop shows, its absurd now to watch the way some of these old cops do their jobs. For example, when following a group of villains to an abandoned warehouse (and they know you are coming) should you A) Work together, cover each other, and systematically work your way through the maze of a building? Or, B) split up, with one person loudly going through a metal door while the other shoulders her gun and ascends a giant ladder? Guess which one the movie chose. Also, a defininte minus point for “Drop the gun or the old geezer gets it!” SCORE: 4




FINAL SCORE: 5… I do have to give this movie credit for making me talk about it more than any other film up to this point. Damn you ROBOCOP!!!

~ by johnlink00 on February 4, 2009.

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