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Written by / 12/02/2014 / 1 Comment / , , , , , , ,

BUSTING THROUGH THE ORIGINAL ROBOCOP TRILOGY

"Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, uphold the law."
ROBOCOP: One of the coolest and most unique revenge movies ever, and you can’t have vengeance without a nasty gang of villains worthy of being destroyed… And there are several tiers of heavies in the original ROBOCOP…

1987 rating: ****
First are the street trash baddies who wind up putting our human hero and soon to be robotic lawman, Peter Weller’s Officer Alex Murphy, into the greedy hands of Miguel Ferrer as Bob Morton, a scene-stealing corporate climber who one-ups the nefarious second in charge Ronnie Cox as Dick Jones, working under The Old Man played by HALLOWEEN 3 trickster Dan O’Herlily…

Back to the urban dwellers who get the ball rolling: A different sort of role for the usually uptight Kurtwood Smith. His gang leader, Clarence J. Boddicker, while looking more like someone’s scruffy accountant, is a genuinely lethal lowlife. Under his command are an eclectic lot including SWAMP THING actor Ray Wise, a black dude with a demonic cackle and a ratty biker who resembles an older version of Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers...

Poster Art
Let’s not bother with any more names... except Officer Anne Lewis, played by cult starlet Nancy Allen, one of the few cast members (besides a black corporate weasel and a propaganda anchorman) to make it through all three ventures.

As tough as she’s vulnerable, Anne is the only person who knew the man behind the steel – enough to bring out memories of his wife and child, something the scientists didn’t expect: our Frankenstein’s monster is still human after all.

ED-209
Once the man-into-metal change occurs, the best scenes involve RoboCop taking to the streets in several montage arrest sequences, and eventually going after the men who made him what he is – climbing the corporate ladder with guns blazing.

Miguel Ferrer
But the niftiest adversary is the initial crime-fighting robot that went haywire, initially causing Ferrer’s Morton to leapfrog into position two… for a little while, anyhow.

ED 209, a formidably unstoppable machine created to clean the streets so the corporation can take over, makes the dream-like stop-motion process beloved and sorely missed.

Although his battles with Robocop aren’t the mainline, those scenes are real knockouts in a movie directed by Paul Verhoeven, setting up a future where surreal commercials (subliminal Reagan bashing) and corporate sponsored newscasts are the mass opiate, it’s a real human hidden behind steel that makes for a now iconic hero that had a nearly perfect vehicle backing him all the way.

1990 rating: **1/2
ROBOCOP 2: This isn’t the first time Irvin Kershner directed a second movie/first sequel of a science-fiction franchise. Only he doesn’t do ROBOCOP the justice he did for STAR WARS with EMPIRE STRIKES BACK… Then again, there wasn't an amazing script to go by…

Belinda Bauer
Writer Frank Miller keeps some of the humorously futuristic attributes that made the original shine. Although the sporadic commercials here are less politically relevant as a peripheral description of society, giving a wry sense of campy déjà vu: still reminding us of a strange world where one particular section of Detroit needs fixing – for all the wrong reasons. A planned high-rise “Utopia” is still in the works to replace the urban blight... sweeping up both the criminals and the innocent. 

Ironic that the very end of the original has our hero saying his name, "Murphy" instead of “RoboCop.” You’d think the sequel would progress with the title character struggling with his inner humanity. But with a more pronounced robotic walk and exaggeratedly halting speech, Weller is doing an imitation of Robo this time around. Instead we center on Dan O’Herlihy as the corporate tycoon known simply as The Old Man...

Foreign Poster
Yet he's peripheral to the true heavy played by the always-watchable Tom Noonan as Cain, an assassin dealer of a new drug called Nuke, which, once injected into the neck, seems to give the pleasure of a lifetime... and then some.

Along with a sexy doctor (Belinda Bauer) working behind the scenes in her own high tech Frankenstein’s laboratory, and a foulmouthed 11-year-old sidekick who deserves a 100 year time-out, much of the film centers on Cain and his various methods of urban tyranny, providing a fair amount of intriguing ultra violent exploitation – but where the hell is RoboCop?

Our hero still has his faithful partner, Nancy Allen’s Anne Lewis, and sporadically daydreams of his wife and child. But for the genuinely cool stuff we have to wait till the end: when a new drug-addicted machine, fitfully called RoboCop 2, lets loose at a demonstration, Robo shows his stuff, resulting in an 11th hour stop-motion battle that finally gives us something… or rather, someone… to root for.

1993 rating: **
ROBOCOP 3: Like Richard Kiel’s JAWS becoming a good guy at the end of MOONRAKER, the destructive robot ED 209 helps a group of uninteresting and annoyingly melodramatic street revolutionaries, thanks to a homeless little girl: the antithesis of that evil garbage pale kid from part 2…

And Nancy Allen returns, partnered once again with RoboCop: a new actor replacing the iconic Peter Weller.

Jill Hennessy & Neo Robo
Enter Robert John Burke, who seems more stiff than Weller ever did… as if the personal interior had fully morphed into a genuinely kindhearted robot without the tortured struggle to remain human. And, sounding more like a wind up doll/action figure, he soon joins forces with the freedom fighter underground.

Robot Samurai
Meanwhile, the corporation is lectured by a Japanese CEO, no longer run by Dan O’Herlihy’s Old Man: Now Rip Torn, as a more vulnerable yet cantankerous chief, vainly barks orders at the upper level heavies – while on the streets a gang called the Splatterpunks have taken over, somewhat.

Yet with the exception of the beautiful Jill Hennessy as the good doctor/scientist, fitfully named Lazerus, trying to revive and protect Robo, and Stephen Root as a crafty trailer to the cause, none of these entities come together or mean much until the new main villain enters: a powerful Samurai Warrior seeming like a misplaced device from a cable or straight-to-VHS movie: which the third ROBOCOP is a throwaway replica of. 
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1 comment:

  1. A movie dear to my heart. I LOVE <3 the original ROBOCOP, Paul Verhoeven a favorite director from that time, Peter Weller one of my favorite actors, Miguel Ferrer who always seems to me an underrated actor who needs to get more credit for his roles, and Ronnie Cox, one BMF. Paul Verhoeven, from Total Recall, Robocop, and Starship Troopers - science fiction trilogy gold as a director, really shines here. Love this movie.

    I liked the second movie well enough although I only saw it once in a movie theater and never after that. The third movie...they made a third movie?!?

    I own the original Criterion release on DVD with the supposed X-rated version - basically because of the Murphy death scene. I always enjoy Verhoeven's commentaries, especially the STARSHIP TROOPERS one.

    Great reviews as always,

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