Thirty years ago, three years after Jim Cameron‘s The Terminator, another gunslinging cyborg appeared on the silver screen: RoboCop. This masterpiece by Dutch director Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Elle, Turkish Delight) became an instant science fiction classic and remains so three decades later. Although the visuals are très eighties, the film is set in a not so distant dystopian future. The Detroit Metropolitan Police Department is now run by a private company Omni Consumers Products or simply OCP, an anagram of ‘cop’.
To serve and protect?
To deal with the heavy crime rates in Old Detroit, OCP’s number two (giggle) Dick Jones (Ronny Cox: Deliverance, Total Recall, Beverly Hills Cop) wants to deploy his clumsy, aggressive robots, the ED-209 series. The showcase of the prototype however ends rather dramatically when ED kills an innocent member of the board of directives although he complied to ED’s orders.
Luckily board member Bob Morton, played by the late Miguel Ferrer, has a plan B for a different prototype. All he’s waiting for is for a good candidate to volunteer for the project. When police officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen: Blow Out, Dressed to Kill, Carrie) and her new partner Alex Murphy (Peter Weller: Naked Lunch) track down a drug gang to their secret hideout, Murphy is brutally assaulted by the gang members, shot in the head and left for dead.
RoboCop: The Man-Machine
Although recovery seems humanly impossible, Murphy is brought to a hospital where paramedics attempt to reanimate him. Practically dead, Murphy seems to be a great candidate for Morton’s secret project. After some extreme plastic and mechanical surgery, Murphy is transformed into a cyborg. Half robot, half cop, we proudly present to you: RoboCop!
Without spoiling the film for those unlucky few who haven’t seen the movie yet (our advice: Go watch it right now!) we can say RoboCop gets mixed up in the dirty political schemes of Dick Jones who practically owns the Detroit mob. Displeased with RoboCop replacing his ED-209, Jones eliminates its inventor Morton and even orders the police force to destroy our steel protagonist. Of course our heroes RoboCop and Lewis survive so they can appear in the terrible sequel RoboCop 2.
The überbad guy in the movie is gang leader Clarence Boddicker played by Kurtwood Smith better known as Red from That ’70s Show or the father of the suicide kid in Dead Poets Society. Although a drug lord in Detroit and the leader of the pack, Boddicker is just a puppet of Dick Jones who owns OCP and therefore owns the cops.
Verhoeven’s director trademarks
Verhoeven’s film is more than just a science fiction action movie but actually touches ethical themes and satirizes commercials and consumerism. Just as in Total Recall and Starship Troopers, Verhoeven injects fake advertising and commercials into this film. Lewis soon finds out her former partner Murphy is used for the RoboCop project and she tries to refresh his erased memory. As the movie progresses, RoboCop recalls his past and remembers who he really is and finds out who killed him.
The director’s tongue in cheek humor also finds its way when RoboCop flips the bird to some guy who denies him access to the police files. Another legendary scene is when bad guy Emil (Paul McCrane: The Shawshank Redemption, Fame) drives into a bin of toxic waste. He wanders around looking for help, while his body disintegrates until he’s hit by a car and he explodes into a thousand pieces.
Every hero needs his catchphrase so when Murphy and later RoboCop arrest someone he says Dead or alive, you’re coming with me. Another one liner is I’d buy that for a dollar! followed by hilarious laughter. This is heard twice in some stupid television show onscreen. The most subtle quote is said by Clarence just after he shoots off Murphy’s shaker: Well, give the man a hand!