Robocop 1 & 2: Robots with Guts

Science fiction movies are always better when you place them in a dystopian future. Of course, that defines about 99% of all sci-fi movies set in the future. After all, how long could you last sitting in a movie theater where everything was hunky-dory and life was beautiful all the time. Personally I’d doze off after about 10 minutes….

Peter Weller is the star of several movies in my list of the top sci-fi and horror movies A look at his oeuvre of films shows that he is a prolific actor in the genre, the same goes for Nancy Allen. She had been in several movies before this role, some of which I had seen, but this was the first one in which I had ever noticed her. Both of these went on to do many more movies after the Robocop movies.

The chemistry between the two on screen is great. They start out as partners in the police force, but gradually come to respect each other.

Robocop (1987)

In the near future (an unspecified year), the city of Detroit is in turmoil. Crime is rampant. A company called Omni Consumer Products (OCP) has bought the Detroit Police Department and runs it as a corporate entity. Officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is transferred to the inner city division and is assigned as a partner to Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen).

Meanwhile, at corporate headquarters of OCP, a senior executive, Dick Jones (Ronny Cox), introduces a concept of a robotic cop called ED209. The ED209 is a disaster as it malfunctions, killing an executive. The head of OCP, called ‘The Old Man” (Daniel O’Herlihy), is “disappointed” with the results. Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) immediately takes initiative in proposing his idea for “Robocop”, which would involve taking a human officer and imbuing him with a vast array of cybernetics. Jones is not very happy with the usurping of his authority, however.

On patrol, Lewis and Murphy chase down a criminal mastermind, Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith, who endows the character with MUCH more menace than he did as Red Forman on That 70’s Show). Boddicker and his gang trap Murphy and literally pour an entire armory of bullets in him while Lewis watches in horror from a hiding place.

Murphy is taken to a hospital where OCP officials take over, and in the name of enterprise, convert him to the prototype for the Robocop program. The faceless corporation (which isn’t exactly faceless, per se, but you get the point) commandeers the former Murphy and makes him essentially a product owned by OCP. They send him back to his former precinct, where several incidents show that he is a superior force with which to be reckoned.

Lewis observes Robocop do a fancy move with his gun and realizes that the robot has the personality and memories of Murphy, since she had seen Murphy perform the same maneuver. She approaches Robocop and calls him Murphy, which triggers some memories in the machine, remembering not only his life as a married man with a kid, but also his death at the hands of Boddicker and his men. Meanwhile, Dick Jones has taken an extremely vengeful dislike for Bob Morton, and has his stooge, (guess who? If you said Boddicker, you’ve been watching just about the right amount of these kinds of movies) to kill Morton, but not before Jones tells Morton via video why… Because he’s a mean vindictive SOB, that’s why.

Shortly thereafter, Robocop goes on a vengeance raid of his own, tracking down Boddicker and his men in an abandoned factory. He proceeds to extract his revenge, all in the name of the law, of course, since his directives (i.e. his programming) prevent him from becoming a true vigilante. Boddicker, in a panic, trying to save his ass reveals that he works for Jones at OCP. Robocop arrests him instead of executing him. He then goes to confront Jones, but finds that he has a hidden directive in his program that prevents him from acting on his evidence against the OCP executive.

The final third of the movie is very entertaining as Robocop and Lewis try to stop Boddicker (who was bailed out by Jones) and a final confrontation with the executive board which will make you stand up and cheer, if you haven’t already left the theater because of the violence…

Which brings me to a final point. This movie is ranked as one of the most violent movies ever made. I think even Sam Peckinpah would have cringed at this movie. And surprisingly, director Paul Verhoeven‘s original cut was even much more violent. According to my research, it was originally rated X for violence, and Verhoeven had to re-cut the movie an astounding seven times before the movie review board finally gave it an R rating. Admittedly the movie is over the top as far as violence is concerned. The question as to whether it is worth it is up to the viewer.

RoboCop 2 (1990)

The movie takes place sometime after the events of Robocop. Detroit has gradually fallen on hard times financially, and the mayor has taken some financial assistance from OCP to keep the city in the black. But they are about to default on their loan, which would allow OCP to have complete ownership of Detroit. Part of OCPs plan to financially ruin Detroit involves the cut in pay to Detroit’s police, which causes the police force to go on strike.

OCP has designs to create a new Robocop to help curb the rampant violence and crime in the inner city. “The Old Man”, who still runs the company, has become a less attractive character by this time.and wholly desires the outcome of control of Detroit, and is behind the plans of Dr. Faxx (Belinda Bauer) to create her new Robocop 2.

Her plan is to fully integrate a personality with the cybernetics and she seeks a willing volunteer to be the human portion. Enter drug lord Cain (Tom Noonan), a despicable character who is trying to engineer a worldwide addiction to his manufactured drug, “Nuke”.

He is helped by his associate, a young kid called Hob (Gabriel Damon). Robocop assaults the drug plant, where his programming stops him from shooting the kid who actually shoots him instead.The criminals then dismantle Robocop and send him back to police HQ in pieces.

Faxx and company rebuild Robocop, but they install an army of new directives which basically turn him into a politically correct machine. Lewis is frustrated with her new partner and tells him so. Robocop uses an electrical grid to fry his circuits, which eliminates all his directives, then goes after Cain, enlisting the help of his fellow striking officers. They raid Cain’s factory an in the ensuing melee, Cain is severely wounded. Faxx decides that Cain is the perfect specimen for her Robocop 2 program and turns him into the new cyborg. To help matters, Cain has an addiction to Nuke which she feels will commit him to helping out. But Cain, still with part of his own personality still in place, has other ideas.

Once again, this is a violent movie, and as opposed to the first one, this one just seems to relish in the violence for it’s own purposes. It doesn’t have Verhoeven’s touch to help it along so it basically just becomes something like one of those ultraviolent video games where the point is just to notch up the violence just for titillation. I recommend it only because of Weller’s presence, and suggest that you avoid RoboCop III, because without Weller to balance the violence, it was just a mess of hash.

Jim Brymer, AKA Quiggy, runs the movie blog The Midnite Drive-In, check it out for more insights on other classic films.

Throughout the coming months, we will be reprinting old posts as part of our Summer of Sci-Fi series. This article originally ran in April.