Over the July 4th weekend, I finally got around to seeing 1987’s action hit, RoboCop, a film I’ve wanted to see for years and had caught bits and pieces of it (though heavily edited) on TV growing up. And it’s an entertaining movie, and also slightly unnerving to think about after the recent events in Dallas. RoboCop is about a futuristic Detroit where crime is at an all time high, cops are being slaughtered left and right, and a robot is used to administer justice and retaliate against criminals (sound familiar?). RoboCop is a highly satirical, entertaining and violent film that has become scarily premonitory in the current crime landscape we currently have in 2016.
The best parts of the film are the satirical touches the director Paul Verhoeven inserts throughout the movie. I love the commercials about bionics and news anchors that will happily jump from a grisly story to a lighthearted fluff piece with ease. Verhoeven has always excelled at pointing out the ridiculousness of modern culture, particularly in Total Recall and Starship Troopers, and RoboCop is no different. The sitcom everyone loves and laughs hysterically at is so painfully awful that it becomes funny, and isn’t too far from a lot of the dreg that have aired on TV for so long.
The violence featured in RoboCop is over the top and full of extra wet squibs. How Alex Murphy survives any of his wounds to become RoboCop is beyond me. And the violence, for how outlandish it is at times, can be shocking. Yes, many of the shootouts are exciting and entertaining in a typical 80s blockbuster way, the violence, particularly in the aforementioned Murphy attach is disturbing. The way that the music stops playing and the camera focuses on the pain in Wellers’ eyes is hard to watch during the scene. As much as Verhoeven welcomes the audience to laugh at certain scenes, Verhoeven is smart enough to show the terrifying pain and danger in certain action scenes.
Speaking of Weller, he gives a great performance in this film. You truly believe his sense of loss and pain when his memories of his past life come flooding back. The confusion and anger are so visible in Weller’s eyes. I also really liked the way he moved as RoboCop. Weller moved his limbs in a stereotypical robotic way, but never felt stiff and was quite fluid. He moved like a well programmed machine, where you can see the steps of each joint movement, but never appearing jittery or forced. It was very natural performance and added a lot of believability to this practically unstoppable cyborg on a search for justice.
RoboCop is highly stylized and truly bonkers at times, particularly in the way it portrays its manic villains and thugs. It has a great sense of fun and I love the interaction between the various members of the police force. Though I didn’t enjoy one of the villain’s motivations and a few of the effects don’t hold up (the stretched arms of a falling corpse dummy is laughably bad), the film still has merits thanks to a great performance by Peter Weller and Verhoeven’s smart direction and the way the film balances action with satire. RoboCop is a fun action movie that has more on its mind than most and its themes and premise are still timely today.