Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: Original "Robocop" Still an Amazing Film

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 32 (of 2014) by Leroy Douresseaux

Robocop (1987)
Running time:  102 minutes (1 hour, 42 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Paul Verhoeven
WRITERS:  Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner
PRODUCER:  Arne Schmidt
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Jost Vacano (D.o.P.) with Sol Negrin
EDITOR:  Frank J. Urioste
COMPOSER:  Basil Poledouris
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Robert DoQui, Ray Wise, Felton Perry, Paul McCrane, Jesse Goins, Del Zamora, Steve Minh, Ken Page, and Laird Stuart

Some believe that “standing the test of time” is a mark that a work of fiction, entertainment, art, etc. is of the highest-quality, most important, or just plain good.  Of course, for some people, the best stories get better with age.

Robocop is a 1987 science fiction, crime, and action film from director Paul Verhoeven.  Twenty-seven years later, Robocop is still a fantastic film, and maybe even better now than it was when it was first released.  The film is set in a dystopia, a near-future version of Detroit, Michigan and focuses on a policeman who returns from the dead as a powerful cyborg cop that might be the future of law enforcement.

Robocop opens in the future and finds Detroit beset by crime and on the verge of collapse because of rampant crime and a severe financial crisis.  To keep the city alive, the mayor signs a deal with Omni Consumer Products (OCP).  The deal allows OCP to take over the Detroit Metropolitan Police Department and to also build a high-end real estate development called “Delta City,” by demolishing rundown sections of Detroit.

Meanwhile, Alex J. Murphy (Peter Weller) arrives at Police Precinct Metro West as a transfer from a precinct that is much nicer than the busy and troubled Metro West.  Not long after his arrival, Murphy and his partner, Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), confront a vicious criminal gang.  Murphy is killed in the line of duty, but OCP revives him as a cyborg – part man and mostly machine.  Murphy is now “RoboCop,” the future of law enforcement, but this future is haunted by submerged memories of his past life.

With Robocop, writers Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner wrote one of the smartest and best screenplays in the history of science fiction films.  Robocop includes themes regarding corporate greed and corruption, identity, mass media, urban decay and gentrification, among many.  The film is clever in the way it satirizes a news media that trivializes even the most serious and tragic events (murder, natural disasters, civil unrest), turning them into junk news for “entertainment consumers.”  At the time of Robocop’s release, television news was already coming under heavy criticism for being “infotainment.”  Robocop was dead-on in predicting where television news was headed, as current real-world TV news is, in many ways, like what Robocop depicts.

Watching Robocop for the first time in ages, I noticed that the film is stylistically like a Western.  Thematically, Robocop bears a resemblance to Westerns that focus on the lone lawman, fighting against a corrupt system and the vilest bad guys.  This film is also similar to Westerns that focus on a good guy returning from near-death or grave injury to deliver payback to the evil-doers that hurt him.  Basil Poledouris driving and colorful score for this film is the perfect musical accompaniment for scenes featuring RoboCop when he is man on a mission.

And Robocop is simply a damn good movie.  Compared to his other films, director Paul Verhoeven delivers a film that is clean and straightforward.  He relies on the screenplay to be clever and complicated, while his direction is sparse and matter-of-fact.  The result is a science fiction movie that looks more like a crime film and cop action movie than it does a film about the future.  In fact, Robocop seems less a prediction of the future and more like a message from the actual future.

This film has a number of good performances, but Peter Weller stands out.  He plays Murphy as being barely noticeable as a person, but Weller employs mechanical affectations to turn RoboCop into a magnetic personality.  I couldn’t take my eyes off him, and Weller left me wanting more of Robocop, the movie and, indeed, the man.

9 of 10

Saturday, July 12, 2014

1988 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win “Special Achievement Award” (Stephen Hunter Flick and John Pospisil for sound effects editing); 2 nominations: “Best Sound” (Michael J. Kohut, Carlos Delarios, Aaron Rochin, and Robert Wald), and “Best Film Editing” (Frank J. Urioste)

1989 BAFTA Awards:  2 nominations: “Best Make Up Artist” (Carla Palmer) and “Best Special Effects” (Rob Bottin, Phil Tippett, Peter Kuran, and Rocco Gioffre)

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

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