In a dystopian future Detroit, crime runs rampant. Mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) has bought the police force, and wants to demolish Detroit to make way for the utopia “Delta City.” In order to gain favor with the police force, Officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is transformed into RoboCop after his brutal death at the hands of Clerance Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). Along with his partner Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), RoboCop quickly cleans up the streets of Detroit. However, Clerance’s connections run higher than the police could have imagined.
The first time I watched RoboCop was a little more recent than I care to admit, but I remember being stunned. I wasn’t stunned at the level of violence, but the fact that it was a very clever movie. If you cut through all the cursing, blood, violence, and 1980s corniness, deep down there is more to this movie than I expected. It cleverly hides it’s message under mangled bodies and oceans of blood.
RoboCop manages to touch on several themes that I was not expecting. As expected with a man being turned into a robot, the idea of identity was a large part of the film. But there was themes regarding the influence of the media, privatization, greed, corruption, and several others. This could have been a generic 1980s action movie fueled simply by action and explosions, but instead the movie uses those to deliver it’s messages to the audience.
If you are anyway squeamish, or don’t like excessive cussing or extreme amounts of violence, don’t watch this film. Every action scene is filled to the brim with blood and vulgar language. Initially, this film was rated “X” it was so violent and they had to work their way down to an “R” rating. However, the amount of brutality shown is enough that it becomes comical. I think that was what director Paul Verhoeven was trying to do; By overemphasizing the violence, you instead focus more on what the movie is trying to say with the violence.
Sometimes it’s hard to watch special effects from older movies. Stop-motion is used several times throughout the movie and looks a bit dated. But the good thing is that the old effects style doesn’t take away much from the experience.
Clerence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) is a fantastic villain. He is sadistic but clever, a very disturbing combination for a criminal. He is a great personification of the environment being portrayed in the film. And it doesn’t hurt that Smith, Red from That 70s Show, plays the hell out of the character.
I don’t have many complaints about RoboCop, but my biggest problem is that we don’t spend much time with Murphy before his transformation. Only twenty minutes or so is spent with Murphy as a person, the rest is spent with Murphy as RoboCop. Since his character isn’t developed, we aren’t given a reason to understand who Murphy is and what made him a good cop. One benefit, though, is the story moves along quickly.
As intimidating as RoboCop looks, his design is very clunky. He is not very mobile, which I think would be very important when chasing criminals. It is just a small gripe, but it seems like a robot cop would be a more agile than he his.
RoboCop is much more clever than it initially lets on. There are several themes that it touched, including identity, influence of the media, greed and corruption. It is very graphic and vulgar, so much so that it becomes humorous. Easily one of the greatest highlights of the film was the villain Clerence, played brilliantly by Kurtwood Smith, who was equal parts ruthless and clever. I wish more time was spent with Murphy before turning into RoboCop but it does move the story along quickly. RoboCop is a dark satire that understands the message it is trying to portray and cleverly uses exaggerated violence to say it.
For the rest of the RoboCop franchise, check out my reviews for RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3, or its remake, RoboCop (2014).
Cast & Crew
Paul Verhoeven – Director
Edward Neumeier – Writer
Michael Miner – Writer
Basil Poledouris – Composer
Peter Weller – Officer Alex Murphy/RoboCop
Nancy Allen – Officer Anne Lewis
Dan O’Herlihy – The Old Man
Ronny Cox – Dick Jones
Kurtwood Smith – Clerence Boddicker
Miguel Ferrer – Bob Morton
Robert DoQui – Sergeant Warren Reed
Ray Wise – Leon Nash
Jesse Goins – Joe Cox