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RoboCop (1987) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Robocop Review

Director: Paul Verhoeven
Writers: Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner
Stars: Peter Weller, Ronny Cox, Miguel Ferrer, Nancy Allen and Dan O’Herlihy

Whenever I see the “Orion Pictures” logo appear on my screen I can’t help but think of “RoboCop” that is of course the 1987 version of the now classic movie starring Peter Weller as Officer Alex J. Murphy, a terminally wounded cop who returns to the force as a powerful cyborg named “RoboCop” haunted by submerged memories. Set in Detroit in the near future, the multi corporate OCP practically runs the city and plans to redevelop it into a futuristic landmark named “Delta City”. Dan O’Herlihy is “The Old Man” CEO of OCP and under him is his number two Dick Jones played by the brilliant Ronny Cox who is developing a robotic officer of the law that goes by the name of ED209. Jones’ plans do not go to well in his presentation when a malfunctioning ED209 doesn’t disarm in a trial run and guns down an OCP board member. Witnessing this is Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) a younger and just as ambitious businessman who is ready to run his RoboCop programme and has a few deceased officers on the law on his list to run trials on to meet the requirements needed. 

It’s this sequence that shows the point of view of corporate ruthlessness between OCP’s Board Members and their ambitious driven goals that highlight the world we are witnessing in this film. Not only that but the corporation appears to rely and thrive on crime to control the city and this is more obvious in the relationship between Dick Jones and Clarence J. Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) Boddicker and his gang are responsible for the death of Officer Alex J. Murphy in what must be one of the most remembered execution scenes to date that is still as shocking as it was back in 1987. The fact that Boddicker and his cronies take turns in shooting the isolated Cop is tragic and sadistic. It is only when Boddicker finally puts a bullet in his head that Murphy can find some peace….or so he thought…or so THEY thought. 

Having an outstanding record in the force Officer Alex J. Murphy becomes top of Bob Morton’s list and the creation of RoboCop begins. What I find most interesting about the RoboCop character is that we never leave Murphy behind. His mind is still holding on to past memories which adds to the character and we aren’t left with a hollow creation. RoboCop as the poster said is Half Man, Half Machine, All Cop. His conflicting thought process allows us to feel sympathy for the character and also root for him on his mission to seek out his executioners. It’s ironic that the main villain of the movie in-fact created RoboCop. 

Peter Weller has to be credited for making RoboCop a believable character. Yes for 75% of the movie he is behind the mask, but his motion and voice patterns is what adds to the character. I’m glad we had some screen time with Murphy before his tragic downfall to allow us to understand his brief relationship with his new partner Officer Anne Lewis played by Nancy Allen and to understand that he was a family man who sadly was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Weller’s portrayal allows you be angry with the men who murdered him in cold blood and also allow you to have satisfaction in Murphy’s revenge.

Kurtwood Smith is a terrific villain and it is the role of Clarence J. Boddicker that will always stick with me when I see the actor. It took me a long time to accept his role in the TV comedy “That ’70s Show” as Reginald ‘Red’ Forman. How could such a sadistic evil man be such a lovable Dad in a SitCom? Smith plays a terrific villain but also is a terrific actor. His line delivery is so memorable and quotable to this day from his “Can you fly, Bobby?” to his “Oooh. Guns, guns, guns! C’mon, Sal! The Tigers are playing…tonight. I never miss a game.” That you will enjoy his portrayal of Clarence J. Boddicker, not root for him but enjoy his performance.

Ronny Cox is probably best in his interactions with Miguel Ferrer. Both their characters are ruthless and as I previously mentioned ambitious. Cox’s Dick Jones is a focused cold blooded businessmen (a far cry from his Lt. Bogomil in 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop) that lets nothing stand in his way. His confrontations with Miguel Ferrer’s Bob Morton are intense and you can see how terrifying stepping on Jones’ toes is through Ferrer’s portrayal of the younger businessman. Morton has the swagger and front but Jones will go one stage further to get what he wants which results in Morton’s downfall.

Nancy Allen as Officer Anne Lewis although isn’t in the movie as much as Smith, Cox or Ferrer still has a role to play in the story. Lewis is Murphy’s link to his previous life and Allen does a job. Nothing outstanding but the character is necessary and you can sense Lewis’ guilt in letting her partner down in his hour of need, although it wasn’t her fault what happened to Murphy, Allen portrays the emotional baggage in not having her partners back resulting in his death. 

You can’t think of RoboCop without thinking of Director Paul Verhoeven. His building a world within a world is what makes RoboCop entertaining. From the News Reports to the Crazy Adverts on TV “I’d Buy That For A Dollar” and the “Nukem” board game is what makes Verhoeven’s movies so memorable. There is a fine line between comic book and serious storytelling, possibly more so back in the late 1980’s before Tim Burton’s Batman. The balance of action, storytelling and humour is just perfect here. Visually this film was groundbreaking. The stop animation of ED209 might appear dated now but back in the films release was realistic and terrifying. The look of RoboCop masked and unmasked was also impressive to witness. Add those sound effects of RoboCop’s footsteps and moving limbs and you would believe that RoboCop was a machine. Overall, after 30 years this film is a classic and has that rewatch ability to it. The acting is top notch, the look and pacing of the film by Verhoeven I would consider perfect and add that classic theme written and performed by Basil Poledouris and you have it all. If you haven’t watched the 1987 version of RoboCop, what are you waiting for? Highly Recommended.

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