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For, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original ‘RoboCop’ has received the ‘special-edition’ treatment from the boutique label Arrow. Here’s my review, published July 17, 1987.

OK, a warning up front: “RoboCop” is the most violent movie to come along in some time. It’s rather numbing in fact, with its penchant for gore and extreme bloodletting (no one takes a bullet here without a lot of goo splurting out of the bullet hole). This one is not for youngsters.

At the same time, however, “RoboCop” is funny and exciting, a rapid-fire action picture portraying a very bleak near-future, played out with humorous, if extremely dark satire. This is sort of an urban “Rambo” by way of “Dr. Strangelove.”

Actually there are a lot of movies that “RoboCop” calls to mind – most prominently “The Terminator,” but you may also recognize bits and pieces of “Westworld” and “Futureworld,” “Blade Runner,” “Brainstorm,” “Escape from New York,” “Future Cop” and even “The Toxic Avenger.”

It is the near future; the setting is Old Detroit, depicted as being overrun with crime and beginning to resemble Beirut. Peter Weller (ol’ “Buckaroo Banzai” himself) is a dedicated cop and family man on his first day in a new precinct — the worst in town, of course.


       Karen Allen, Peter Weller, 'RoboCop' (1987)

He is teamed up with tough-but-cute Nancy Allen: We know she’s tough because her first scene has her beating up a slimeball in the police station and we know she’s cute because as soon as she finishes beating the guy to a pulp, she pulls off her helmet and throws her head back in that “Flashdance”-ish “Gee, aren’t you surprised I’m a woman instead of man” manner.

It’s their first day together and they find themselves in hot pursuit of Detroit’s worst evildoers. But after following them to an abandoned warehouse the tables are turned and Weller is tortured and killed. (Reportedly it is this scene that required heavy editing to keep the film from getting an X rating for violence.)

To the world Weller is dead but to Security Concepts Inc. he is about to become a prototype of their new cyborg policeman, “RoboCop,” an invincible supercop that  will clean up the crime-ridden town to make way for the building of a new crimeless city. So they say.

But, despite his memory being erased, Weller still has unstructured flashbacks. Humanity, of course, cannot be obliterated.

Along the way, however, he battles the bad guys in a series of rescue scenes that bring to mind the first “Superman” film, where Christopher Reeve ran around Metropolis one night doing everything from getting a cat our of a tree to rescuing Lois Lane from a rooftop fall. And “RoboCop” eventually goes one-on-one with a wild villainous robot that’s even more indestructible than he is (and rather animal-like).


There are crosses and double-crosses but the plot is really secondary to the action — and the humor.

My favorite scenes are the segues with two news anchors (Mario Machado and “Entertainment This Week’s” Leeza Gibbons) reporting bizarre news of the future; the commercials that accompany the news are also hilarious.

Director Paul Verhoeven, whose first American film this is (he did the Dutch movies “Spetters” and “Soldier of Orange”), is a stylist with a sharp sense of humor, and that humor is what makes the excessive violence somewhat palatable, if not excusable.

But the excesses are prominent, and if you are in the least bit squeamish you might want to pass on this one. Weller, Allen, and especially Ronny Cox in a surprisingly nasty role, are good, but in a film like this they are secondary to action and special effects.

“RoboCop,” rated R for violence, profanity, drug use and some brief nudity in the cops’ locker room, overplays its hand but it’s also a lot of fun — in its own perverse, nihilistic way.