IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! RoboCop

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Capitalism is, in its current form, a very Darwinian way of life. Only the wealthy survive, and if you want to make it you need to cleave yourself to someone with pockets much deeper than yours in exchange for the means to keep on living. Lately the cleaving has been to large corporations instead of individuals. This is why you'll see public sports arenas bearing the names of dispassionate banks and energy companies instead of the luminaries of the sport. This is called privatization, and it's the basis for Paul Verhoeven's Robocop.

Oh, and there's a robot. Who's a cop.

Courtesy Orion Pictures

In a near-future vision born of the 80s and bearing a sharp, cynical edge, the police of Detroit have become owned and operated by Omni Consumer Products, a military subcontractor looking to bulldoze a crime-ridden part of the city to build an ultra-modern business district. When the old guard's robotic answer goes awry during a demonstration, a young turk puts forth his own idea, involving the use of 'some poor schmuck'. That schmuck is Murphy, a hard-working well-meaning cop transfered into the most violent precinct in the city just in time to killed in the line of duty. OCP scrapes him off of the operating room table, drops him into a robotic body and wires him with primary directives: Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, uphold the law. This is RoboCop, their hottest product ever, but inside the titanium and kevlar, does Murphy still exist?

RoboCop's one of those movies I grew up with. When I first saw it, I was too young to understand a lot of the underlying themes of the work, but I understood the basics of the plot in and of themselves, and hey, badass robots! Seeing it again, I can appreciate it more on levels beyond mere spectacle and distraction. In fact, watching RoboCop as an adult, it's hard to shake the notion that Verhoeven might as well be saying "This is what happens when people with money run everything" in big, bright letters.

Courtesy Orion Pictures
Your move, creep.

That said, this is a Verhoeven entry much more in line with Starship Troopers than Black Book. Even more so than the theme of military pseudo-fascism, privatization is something that has remained a pertinent and very real possibility in our modern day and age. There are some of the classic Verhoeven tounge-in-cheek touches, like the stock tickers above the urinals in the OCP executive longue and the 8.2 MPG automobile called the 6000 SUX being hailed as "an American tradition". These moments of levity not only serve as bridges between the visceral violence but also drive home the point our director is making.

Which isn't to say that RoboCop is all cerebral anti-privatization rhetoric. There's plenty of action to be had. From the gunfight in the coke factory to the showdown with ED-209, you're certainly not going to be bored. It's hard to shake the notion that the film's age is starting to show in places, and some of the deeply-seated nuclear fears of the age seem a touch laughable, but the film has the good sense to laugh right along with us. However, it's also hard to shake the feeling that some of the trends we see in the film - the beleagured, underfunded civil servants, the thriving corporations with rhetoric and iconography disturbingly close to a certain regime from the 1940s, the apathy of the public, the sensationalist news media - came to life all too vividly.

Courtesy Orion Pictures
Say hello to Dick's little friend.

On top of everything else, Peter Weller does a fine job in the lead role. As Murphy, he's a nice guy in a bad town, wanting to do the right thing and impress his son while not being a very good shot and making a couple mistakes that lead to his demise. As RoboCop, it's clear OCP has done all it can to strip him of his humanity, giving him an improved form and more accurate function while watering down all that made him who he was. The struggle he undertakes to regain what he lost, even in some small sense, inhabits this movie with some real heart that, while a touch melodramatic at times, nonetheless makes for a perfect final element to round out a great film.

I was afraid that the years had been unkind to RoboCop. While I did laugh at some of the stop-motion that chilled my blood as a child, I noticed a lot more now that I've grown. And everything I noticed just makes the movie better. If you've never seen RoboCop, be it because you were too young or you wished to avoid Verhoeven's signature ultra-violence, do yourself a favor and queue it up on Netflix. Be it blazing action, darkly comedic satire or an intereting twist on a Frankensteinian character, there's appeal for most within its runtime. It's well worth your time.

Josh Loomis can't always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it's unclear if this week's film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain... IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

They don't get better than Robocop. What a pity the studio hobbled Irvin Kershner's Robocop 2. That film starts well then quickly descends into a drug plot that, as in Verhoeven's classic, should have remained a sub-plot.

I'll always remember this film for the phrase "I'd buy that for a dollar!". Robocop was one of those movies that had an opinion on every subject, and was quite refined in its own gloriously OTT kind of way.

It's kind of like Demolition Man (which has become strangely prophetic - President Schwarzenegger?!) and, since no action film has a rating higher than 12a these days, deeply missed.

Great review man, loved every word as usual :)

floppylobster:
They don't get better than Robocop. What a pity the studio hobbled Irvin Kershner's Robocop 2. That film starts well then quickly descends into a drug plot that, as in Verhoeven's classic, should have remained a sub-plot.

Irvin Kershner directed Robocop 2? Didn't know that, interesting.

Soviet Heavy:

floppylobster:
They don't get better than Robocop. What a pity the studio hobbled Irvin Kershner's Robocop 2. That film starts well then quickly descends into a drug plot that, as in Verhoeven's classic, should have remained a sub-plot.

Irvin Kershner directed Robocop 2? Didn't know that, interesting.

He did, and Frank Miller penned the screenplay. It really is a shame the studio mucked things up.

Must make time to watch Robocop at some point...
I don't know what takes up all of my time. I have nothing to do!

I haven't seen RoboCop in ages, but there's one part that I'll never forget: the scene where ED-209 first makes his appearance, and ends up killing the suit who volunteers to do the demonstration with the gun. I can't remember ever seeing any part of any movie more cold and devoid of emotion than when that guy gets mowed down because of ED's terrible programming.

Anyway, an interesting perspective on the movie.

This is the most violent movie I've ever seen.

The pounding guns, like jackhammers, of Ed209 as it guns down that office drone, and then keeps firing for ~20 seconds after it is obvious the man is dead.

The barking of shotgun fire into the hand, legs, and torso of our main character. I've never heard guns sound so angry, so real and I'm an avid shooter! Over and over, dozens of shots, such gratuitous violence. And barely heard of it are the screams of the victim. The villains laugh at the hero's suffering, making jokes.

And finally, bleeding profusely from his wounds, alive only by fate's cruel whim, the bad guy puts a round in the main character's head, blam.

RoboCop is by far, the most violent movie I've ever seen, not only in the casual, almost routine depiction of graphic violence, but also how the realism is juxtaposed with the hilariously callous reactions from observers.

I rate this movie as 9/10.

Because people with all the money never ran things before the 20th century? I see the movie's criticism of consumerism/materialism/capitalism to be rather bland and quite pandering to audiences that (for all of human history) dislike money ruling things. Sorry, that's the way it's always been and it ain't going to change.

I did like the movie for other reasons. The scene where Robocop is re-experiencing his old life in his home really hit home for me as a movie about personal identity and what it means when your former self is entirely different from you current self. It had killer action scenes too.

Without the touch of Verhoeven, Robocop could've easily become a standard B-movie. Instead it became one of the best movies I've ever seen.

The capitalism in this movie was probably more a reflection of the 80's itself though. It depicts all these corporate executives and yuppies in the same manner that American Psycho did. And also the whole American idea of "bigger is better", of which ED-209 is a perfect example, also ran rampid in the 80's.

The funny thing is that everyone in this movie is as corrupt as fuck. And the only person who is right and just only is so because he's programmed to.

Great review.

p.s. You should check out Flesh & Blood too. Another Verhoeven classic.

oh man, i used to work at the netflix customer service center, and let me tell you. robocop was on in both break rooms daily, in addition to the office and 30 rock. we were all total, total nerds.

 

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