The Action Mutant…
puts a foot in the ass of the innocent to protect them! Dumbass!
review by Joe Burrows
Ah, the 1980s! Reagan was in full effect, which meant foreigners and drugs were the scourge of all existence and justice was obtained by any means necessary. Some argue not much has changed, only the names as Bon Jovi’s “Wanted: Dead or Alive” would say. However, while everyone and their mother have called out about how society is today, it wasn’t as apparent 20 years ago. Sure, Gordon Gekko had it right by saying “Greed is good!” but did anyone really care? Who knew that the ravings of a mad Dutchman and two guys fixated with robots would be relevant so many years later? And oh yeah, there’s enough blood spilled to make Peckinpah blush.
The Plot, as it was:
Peter Weller is Murphy, a cop who just got transferred to the crappiest precinct in Old Detroit. He and his new partner Lewis (Nancy Allen) get involved in a chase with a gang of bank robbers led by Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). At their hangout, Murphy gets cornered by the gang and is literally blown apart by shotguns. Meanwhile, executive Dick Jones’ (Ronny Cox) robotic police project ED-209 has just failed miserably. Scathing yuppie Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) picks up the ball and offers a solution: a robotic police officer with no memory or emotion that is only manufactured to serve and protect the public. All he needs is a dead body to volunteer his services. You guessed it…Murphy gets a promotion! But, can “Robocop” (as he’s dubbed) be the ultimate cop without things getting personal?
Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
You read the plot outline and you’re immediately reminded that the 1980’s was “the cocaine decade”. All of that doesn’t matter, though. This film not only rocks in nearly every way possible but it’s not as dumb as the premise appears. Director Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall, Showgirls) wraps all of the blood n’ guts around the satire of writers Michael Miner and Ed Neumeier and the result is an action saga/societal cautionary tale. All of the commercials and fake news reports in the film seem to take a life of their own in today’s landscape (my favorite is the results of the President’s “Space Satellite Peace Platform”), as does one of the film’s many mantras (“Good business is where you can find it.”). And while the film is being darkly funny, it’s also jarring in its harshness. The sets are bathed in metallic blue and drab gray and the city (Dallas standing in place of Detroit) definitely conveys the dusty, almost neo-Western landscape (also punctuated by Basil Poledouris’ towering score). And Verhoeven makes it a point to never shy away from the brutality, which is conveyed by present day baddies multiplied in viciousness by 100. Cox has steel eyed reserve as Dick Jones, who’s almost like The Simpsons’ Mr. Burns…without the humor. Ferrer, who should carry around a stamp that says “slimeball” to stamp resumes with, is just deliciously snide as Morton and perfectly looks the part. Paul McCrane and Ray Wise are also nicely over the top as members of Boddicker’s gang. But nothing, and I mean NOTHING, matches the complete aura of slime that Smith conveys as Boddicker. It’s almost a shame that most will remember him as patriarchal hard ass Red Forman on That 70’s Show because he is so giddily evil here! There’s not a single memorable line of his that doesn’t drip with anarchical disdain (“Bitches, LEAVE!”). Sadly, Weller shows more personality as Robo than as his human self but his time in the suit is a bravura show. His spot on robotic moves are a great compliment to Phil Tippet’s wonderful stop motion work on ED-209 (you know, before CGI and computers?). Who knew robots could have such an insanely good time?
Body Count/Violence: 30. For the uninformed lamenting “That’s not THAT violent!” well, they probably aren’t familiar with “The Mad Dutchman’s” work. Verhoeven gets a lot of “bang for his buck” with each scene and loads them up with enough blood for 10 films. In interviews, he likened Murphy/Robocop’s story to the death and resurrection of Jesus and you certainly get the sense of that with Murphy’s death. I’ve seen this film countless times and that is still one of the most disturbing and graphic deaths in film history. It is definitely “The Passion of the Murphy”. Once Robocop emerges, he immediately makes his mark, shooting foes every which way and location. He also has a metal spike that shoots out of his fist, which he uses on one memorable occasion. There are also the requisite explosions, window crashing, vehicular mayhem and toxic waste mutilation (?) that made the 80s so wicked fun. (Note: The 103 minute “Director’s Cut” is only a minute longer but really punctuates the scenes shortened by the MPAA. All of the main death pieces include more bloody bullet hits, including Murphy’s death in which his hand, arm and back of head are all blown off.)
Sexuality/Nudity: Aside from some pasty male ass and breasts in the police locker room, there’s nothing. Although, seeing Bob Morton snorting coke off of a call girl’s cleavage is fetching in a trashy way. And I’ll just leave “I’d buy THAT for a dollar!” to yourself.
Language/Dialogue: Pretty strong, though not constant.
How bad was it?:
Most critics actually praised it, citing the hybrid of action and satire. Some critics couldn’t get by the film’s outward appearance or just dismissed it as repulsive violence. Pussies.
Did it make the studio’s day?:
Orion Pictures released Robocop on 7/17/87, with it debuting at #1 with $8 million. It was #1 for its first two weeks and stuck around for a little over two months, never dropping out of the top 15. Its final tally was $53.4 million, which made Orion a tidy profit off of a $13 million budget. It’s amazing the film looks as great as it does with that budget because I’m sure it would probably cost $200 million to make today and wouldn’t come off nearly as good. And it would most likely be directed by Michael Bay.
Entertainment value: *****/*****
Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.