Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Robocop 2

The Action Mutant…

Robocop 2

review by Joe Burrows

Back in my original Robocop review, I had mentioned that if it were made today, it would probably cost $200 million and be directed by Michael Bay. I can only imagine it being dreadful, as it would most likely be watered down and PG-13eened to death (though, that’s happened already in the franchise, as you will see in a future review). The casting would certainly be critical; despite the fact the SFX would be the real star. I hate to say it but the role of Murphy could go to almost anyone (ok, not Carrot Top) as all of the CGI would pretty much do the work. I could see Linda Cardinelli (Freaks & Geeks, still one of the 10 best shows cancelled way too early!) as Lewis, as she’d be gutsy but vulnerable. Maybe Martin Sheen as the Old Man, Michael Caine as Dick Jones, Gary Oldman or Ben Foster as your main baddie (NO ONE is recreating Clarence Boddicker) and you’d at least have the makings of something watchable. Of course, there have already been talks of remaking the original so we’ll see how bad the casting choices are and how it deadens my soul just that much more. In the meantime…

The Plot, as it was:
Robocop (Peter Weller) is back and so is his identity crisis from the original. OCP tries to reprogram Robo…with sexy…no, horrible results. The corporation decides to manufacture a newer version of their initial creation, as the Old Man (Daniel O’Herlihy) wants to pacify the citizens of Detroit in the effort to create a new city. Meanwhile, a creepy cult leader named Cain (Tom Noonan) is infesting the streets with a powerful designer drug called Nuke and is aided by a powerful street team that has a unlikely disciple in Hob (Gabriel Damon), a foul mouthed adolescent that’s deadlier than he looks. Looks like Robo has more problems than just trying to figure out if he’s human or not.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Anyone that always gets the feeling that sequels are out to change the original layout radically will get a mixed feeling with Robocop 2. It’s pretty much just like the first…only not as focused or good. For one, the writing is not as sharp and is sorely lacking that snap by original writers Michael Miner and Ed Neumeier (Frank Miller’s original script was reworked severely by veteran scribe Walon Green). This is very notable with Noonan playing Cain, as he plays him very slimy but doesn’t have many memorable lines to work with (the best was comparing himself to Jesus and ending his speech with “I forgive you”…good, but can’t touch any of Clarence’s gems). The film is also notable for its shift in tone, as the almost giddy, parody laden atmosphere is replaced by a something that comes off too seriously. Although there are a few funny mock ads (the first with John Glover making a cameo is very amusing), they’re not as plentiful as the first. What it really comes down to is that Robocop 2 tries to be too many things while trying to keep the memory of the first film intact. The moralistic stance on drugs is so evident here (especially when Hob is added in the mix as sort of a corrupted face of the new wave of drug consumption) whereas it was just an element to the story in the first film. Robo goes through so many changes in this one that it’s easy to forget that he seemed to find his identity in the end of the first film (the reprogramming fallout, while amusing, is a little too silly for its own good)! Never mind the fact that the Old Man goes from benevolent tycoon to malevolent old bastard with no explanation in this one, either! Weller and Nancy Allen (Lewis) are given even less to do the second go-around, as Robo is given the Poochie treatment most of the time (with everyone talking about Robocop as opposed to….actually seeing Robocop!). Despite all of this, the film is still watchable and it delivers the slam-bang goods when it needs to. The stop motion SFX is still top notch as per the first installment and the final battle certainly pulls out all of the stops. Everything works on all the base requirements a sequel should fulfill…just don’t expect the kinetic forces and story craftsmanship that made the first such a legendary entity.

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Fabiana Udenio (Alotta Fagina in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery) is the model in the “Sunblock 5000” ad.
- Frank Miller (the original screenwriter for Robocop 2 and creator of Sin City and 300) is Frank the Chemist.

Body Count/Violence: 60! A sequel usually ups the body count…but doubling it outright? 2.0 proved to be as nasty as the first, as it adds in more than the pervasive bloody shooting (which is maybe a notch below the squib level of the first…nice shot to the eye, though!). There are high heels to the eye, gory surgery scenes, Robo-limbs being cut off, brain smashing, neck breaking, baseball bat beating, car crashes, explosions, electrocution, etc.

Sexuality/Nudity: A slinky outfit here and there but nothing to hang on to.

Language/Dialogue: When Hob speaks, there’s usually a derivative of “fuck” or “shit” involved. Fairly profane, like the first.

How bad was it?:
Well, it’s a sequel so it has a disadvantage right at the outset. Basically, those that loved the first one didn’t love the second one as much and those that hated the first one reviled this one. Many critics cited the follow-up’s theater of cruelty as a hang-up for lack of new ideas.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Produced on a budget of $14 million, Orion Pictures distributed Robocop 2 to theaters on 6/22/90. It grossed a little over its budget its first weekend ($14.2 million) but still finished 2nd to Dick Tracy (which was in its 2nd week). It dropped out of the top 20 over a month later and wound up with a gross of $45.7 million. Although it made a decent profit, it was considered a mild disappointment since it didn’t match the grosses of the original Robocop. Wonder what the reaction was when they saw the receipts for Robocop 3!

Film: **1/2/*****
Entertainment value: ****/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

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