Peter Weller in RoboCop (1987)


(director: Paul Verhoeven; screenwriters: Edward Neumeier/Michael Miner; cinematographer: Jost Vacano; editor: Frank J. Urioste; music: Basil Poledouris; cast: Peter Weller (Alex Murphy/RoboCop), Nancy Allen (Ann Lewis), Kurtwood Smith (Clarence Boddecker), Miguel Ferrer (Robert Morton), Ronny Cox (Dick Jones), Dan O’Herlihy (The Old Man), Paul McCrane (Emil), Robert DoQui (Sergeant Reed), Ray Wise (Leon C. Nash), Felton Perry (Johnson), Paul McCrane (Emil M. Antonowsky), Neil Summers (Dougy), Sage Parker (Tyler), Kevin Page (Kinney, OCP marketing executive), Diane Robin (Chandra); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Arne Schmidt; MGM; 1987)

“More intelligent than the usual action-packed sci-fier.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A futuristic action-packed sci-fi film directed in a comic book style by the Dutch-born Paul Verhoeven (“Starship Troopers”/ “Spetters”/”Total Recall”), in his first American feature film. It’s loaded with humor and political (has a field day spoofing Regan’s Star Wars peace platform) and social satire (spoofs superficial news broadcasts and a mindlessly titillating comedy show on the one-channel allowed), but when that runs dry it resorts to bloody bang-bang action sequences to reach its fiery violent climax. The film was a sleeper hit, which gave way to two more lesser sequels.

Inner-city Detroit in the near future is riddled with crime. The police department contracts the private mega-company OCP (Omni Consumer Products Corporation) to run it and help it fight crime with modern technology, but the crime wave has only increased with cops being the number one target. Honest officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is transferred to the downtown precinct from the suburbs and is partnered with the gum-chewing cocky Ann Lewis (Nancy Allen). On his first car patrol they pursue a van-load of robbers into an abandoned steel mill, where the vicious gang corner Murphy and pump him full of lead from their shotguns.

The venal Dick Jones (Ronny Cox), VP at OCP, has developed an ‘urban pacification’ robot called ED-209, but it has serious malfunction issues during a demo. Ambitious OCP junior executive Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) seizes the opportunity to get on the good side of the big boss, CEO (Dan O’Herlihy), and gets the Old Man to green light his competing RoboCop prototype program until the bugs are worked out with Jones’s robot. This pisses off Jones, who swears to get even with the younger hot-shot executive. The ‘RoboCop’ program uses Murphy’s body to be a part-man, part-machine cyborg–whereby erasing his memory, rebuilding his body with armor, and storing data inputs and a computer chip in his head. The RoboCop is put out in the street by the cynical precinct black sergeant (Robert DoQui), and is programmed as an incorruptible and heroic policeman.

But after an initial success unforeseen complications ensue over glimpses of memory of his family returning, that Jones has corrupted the police department and RoboCop seeks revenge against his ruthless killers who are led by the sociopath narcotic dealer Clarence Boddecker (Kurtwood Smith)–with ties to Jones.

More intelligent than the usual action-packed sci-fier. It was influenced by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1926). It does a nice job targeting the corporate and militaristic culture of the Reagan era.