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Movie Review | Robocop (1987)

Robocop (Peter Weller) strikes an iconic pose in Robocop

Movie summary: In a dystopic and crime-ridden Detroit, a terminally wounded cop returns to the force as a powerful cyborg haunted by submerged memories. (IMDb)

Robocop is now over thirty years old, so there's not going to be a great deal that I can say here that others won't have already said many, many times before. This is an incredibly violent, foul-mouthed, drug-filled roller-coaster of a movie that grabs you by the throat from the start and marches at pace to the ending less than two hours later.

I first saw this movie when I was just eleven years old, thanks to my parents buying it for me on VHS. I was a sci-fi nut as a kid, and that apparently over-ruled the 18 rating on the cover of the box and thoroughly enjoyed just how inappropriate a movie it was for my age. At least the content of this movie never affected me negatively - mainly because it's so damn good.

Anyway, I'm just going to go through the things that always stand out in my mind when it comes to this movie, starting with the look of the title character. I don't know what material the costume was made of, but it certainly makes you believe that it can take a pounding without any problem - while also avoiding the uncanny valley by looking almost entirely machine-like with only the lower part of Peter Weller's face on display.

Next is that amazing gun - and I'm not a gun person at all. In games, I prefer melee or stealthy take-downs to a gunfight - or even better, talking or thinking your way out of it. But Robocop's gun? Holy hell do I love it and the noise it makes. The fact that it's only ever used on the bad guys helps alleviate some of the guilt for liking a tool of pain and death so much.

Ronny Cox as Dick Jones and Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker are also so, so good as a pair of villains - one for the boardroom, one for the streets, and both prove very dangerous for Robocop. They're both intelligent guys, but utilise it differently, with Jones taking advantage of a programming loophole and Boddicker mimicking this by reminding Murphy that he's a cop.

Oh yeah, Murphy - the guy Robocop used to be before getting one of the most visceral, violent 'deaths' for a protagonist I've ever seen. Well is so good in the short time we spend with him before this moment that you already feel bad enough when he loses his hand, but that's nothing compared to what follows and is still bloody hard to watch without at least wincing in sympathy.

Lewis (Nancy Allen) tried to remind Murphy (Peter Weller) who he used to be in Robocop

Then there's Robocop's raid on the drug lab where he proves just how formidable a force he is, wordlessly (silently is NOT the right word with the amount of gunfire on show) working his way through his opponents without any difficulty at all and even giving Boddicker a well-deserved beating before arresting him. It's a one-sided battle, but still incredibly satisfying.

Lastly for this review, there's Nancy Allen as Anne Lewis, Murphy's partner before his death and the human heart of the movie that helps Robocop remember who he was before his transformation. In such a male-dominated movie, Allen stands out as one of the best performers on show and proves that Lewis is just as capable of dishing out or taking a beating as any of the men in the story.

I could go on as Robocop really is a great movie, with it's only real flaw being that it is so very definitely set in the mid-to-late Eighties that it feels more dated than the earlier Terminator, although I would argue that this is actually the better movie. Still, standing as a relic of the past isn't a terrible thing, just a minor blemish on an otherwise superb piece of cinema.

Robocop is still a fantastic movie from start to finish, but it feels very much of its time and that dated feeling stops it from being an all-timer. Still, not a second is wasted as the story drives forward relentlessly - it's often clichéd, but the execution is so spot on that it doesn't matter at all. It's very bloody, so not for the squeamish, but I'd still recommend seeing it at least once.


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