RoboCop or Murphy’s Law

robocop

The term ‘ultraviolent’ could almost have been coined for this dystopian sci-fi thriller from Paul Verhoeven, the man who has brought us such cinematic showstoppers as..er…Basic Instinct and Showgirls. Set in a nightmarish, crime-ridden Detroit, a once great city now crying out for deliverance from the gangs and corporations set on carving up what’s left of this sprawling urban metropolis. This being America, that deliverance takes the form of a gun, badge and lots of big shiny metal. Inspired by cult totalitarian lawman, Judge Dredd, RoboCop operates with a similarly bleak and sober view on law enforcement: shoot first and let God sort them out.

We start with veteran police officer Murphy, (Peter Weller), joining a new precinct in Detroit. His first day does not go well. Firstly, in tandem with his new partner Lewis, he comes across a marauding gang of armed robbers fresh from a bank job. Heavily outnumbered and outgunned, Murphy attempts to round up and capture the villains who are led by anarchic outlaw Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). Instead, the crooks turn the metaphorical table on Murphy and then turn their guns on him in as brutal a fashion as possible, systematically maiming and blasting away before leaving him for dead.

Backup arrives just in time to pronounce Murphy dead, but all is not lost as sinister conglomerate OCP (Omni Consumer Products) harvest the remaining bits of Murphy and after a few hours of messing around with Crazy Glue, twine, staples and the odd LED here and there, the last remnants of Officer Murphy are gone and RoboCop emerges! Programmed with the simple directives of serving the public trust, protecting the innocent and upholding the law, RoboCop is the ultimate boy in blue, a cyborg with a heart of gold. Well, not actually gold, it’s probably a mix of steel and circuitry, but you get the idea.

Soon enough the quick-drawing RoboCop is cleaning up the streets of Detroit and everyone is happy. Well, except perhaps the criminals, both blue and white collar, who have become accustomed to having their own way in Motor City and don’t take kindly to the new sheriff in town. RoboCop starts to experience nightmares and visions from his old life as Murphy despite all his programming. Soon enough he is hunting down all the gang members that took part in the merciless murder of Murphy. He tracks Boddicker down to a cocaine factory and cuts a swathe through the army of criminals sent to vanquish him.

Boddicker is subjected to an old school police brutality beating but RoboCop manages to stop himself just before crossing over the line and killing an unarmed man. Boddicker reveals he has links to the senior management of OCP who decide that their little experiment has gotten out of hand and needs to be terminated. Enter the ED-209, an enormous drone with military grade firepower that starts attacking our robotic hero. RoboCop then proves there is the requisite man behind all the metal and knowing that the only way to destroy a robot with a big gun is to find an even bigger gun manages to accomplish exactly that feat by pummelling the ED-209 with an assault cannon.

Justice is finally served as RoboCop slays all the remaining gang members and even shows himself to be a dab hand in the boardroom by shooting the crooked executive that ordered his termination only falling short of perfect style points by allowing someone else to say, “you’re fired”.

In 1987 people had vivid imaginations. Detroit was imagined as a grim and grimy morass in terminal moral and social decline and on the verge of bankruptcy. Crime is rampant and unchecked. Giant corporations are buying up public services and drawing up plans to bulldoze unsightly property and gentrify any area that didn’t meet their vision of a new utopia. Drones operate on the ground and in the sky dispensing bloody justice at the click of a button. Good thing none of those crazy predictions came true…