Robocop is a movie I was completely and utterly misinformed about for the majority of my life. I always figured it was a campy, so-bad-it’s-good 80s action film in the same vein as Road House or Arnold’s lesser movies. But I was surprised and delighted to discover Robocop had all the action and violence I expected, but with a surprising level of humour, heart and brains.
Do I really need to go over the plot details of Robocop? If you couldn’t guess enough from the informative title, Robocop tells the story of an honest cop, Officer Alex J. Murphy (Peter Weller), in a dystopic Detroit. One day, while investigating a robbery, Officer Murphy gets gunned down, like really gunned down, like hundreds of bullets to the chest gunned down. But luckily for him, and for justice, a company looking to start a major construction project wants to clean up the streets of Detroit, so they take Murphy’s remains and rebuild them into Robocop, an unstoppable crime fighting android. Robocop proceeds to kick ass all over Detroit, and pursue the meanies who shot him in the first place.
I loved Robocop on so many levels. I expected it to be a mindless action romp with lots of blood and guts. I wasn’t wrong about the blood and guts, but I couldn’t have been more wrong about the mindlessness. Robocop is a surprisingly biting satire of American culture. A culture obsessed with consumerism and dominated by corporations is put on display, and appears eerily similar to our own, even 25 years after the release of the film. Crime runs rampant through the streets, yet somehow a major corporation is the only group with the power to do something about it. It presents a desperate and scary vision of society that stays with you.
The movie is also surprisingly hilarious. All the grim violence and dystopic nightmares are often interrupted by moments of humour that are just as memorable as the action. One of my favourite moments is when the giant, intimidating ED-209 robot, with all its might and destruction, can’t make it down a simple flight of stairs.
On an entirely superficial level, Robocop is so totally cool. Robocop just kicked so much ass, it’s impossible to not have a good time watching him. The action is perfectly paced and sufficiently spectacular. For example, Robocop takes out a potential rapist by shooting him between the legs of his victim; it’s impossible to put into the words how cool this scene is. Then there’s the ending, oh, the ending. I don’t want to give anything away, just go watch the movie if you haven’t seen it, seriously.
The whole movie just oozes atmosphere. The mood is so enthralling and vile it makes this fictional Detroit seem almost as sleazy as the real thing. The lighting and cinematography pull the dystopic and brooding set design off the screen, making you feel like you’re there next to Robocop. The music combines with this to capture a unique mix of 80s electronica and grim, doom-like tones, making for a truly sensory atmosphere. The special effects also hold up reasonably well for a 25 year old action film. Some of the effects, like the movements ED-209 robot, look pretty dated, but for the most part I found everything looked very good.
The only real negative thing I could say about the film is its acting. Weller is great once he becomes Robocop, but before that he felt a little hollow, as did his partner, played by Nancy Allen. Most of the performances felt wholly competent, but not really great or memorable. None of the acting was bad enough to get in the way of enjoying the film, however.
Robocop can only be described as awesome. The whole thing just made me so happy. The ass kicking, the humour, the satire, the effects and so much more came together to make for an awesome action film. I want to watch it again and again, and I’d love it every single time. Among the huge anthology of actions films of the 80s, Robocop may go down as my favourite.