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ROBOCOP 2/ROBOCOP 3

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 24, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Neither of the two ‘RoboCop’ sequels — 'RoboCop 2' and 'RoboCop 3' — was quite up to the first film, but their popularity has nonetheless led to Shout! Factory releasing special-edition Blu-ray upgrades for both '2' and '3,' so here are my Desert News reviews of those films, published, respectively, on June 22, 1990, and Nov. 5, 1993.

Robocop 2: "Robocop" was a delightful surprise a few summers ago. It was witty, funny and exciting, though admittedly its violence was way over the top.

And so I had high hopes for "RoboCop 2," especially knowing it was directed by Irvin Kershner, who helmed what many people consider to be the best of the "Star Wars" trilogy, "The Empire Strikes Back."

But "RoboCop 2" is a sequel in the worst tradition. It's a loud remake from the bigger-is-better school and confirms the worst fears of many parents that Hollywood is too often irresponsible and out of control.

Actually the film starts off with great promise. Peter Weller, as Murphy — aka "RoboCop" — has now become an established crime-buster with a following. Especially since the rest of the Detroit police force is on strike.

But he has a glitch in his memory that makes him think he's still human. So he tracks down his family, which is just getting over mourning Murphy's death, and watches his wife and son from afar.

This is naturally upsetting to his wife, so she sues the force. Is Murphy man or machine? Despite a certain amount of human feeling, it's decided he's just nuts and bolts. So he promises to back off and not harass his family.

There is some real poignancy in these early moments and it appears that this "RoboCop' may have some heart to it, lending depth to the razzle-dazzle violence we expect will come later.

Alas, after these initial scenes, the entire subplot is dropped as if it never happened. And though there is some later allusion to RoboCop's humanness, it's never explored again.

Instead, the focus shifts to Weller's tracking down mobsters who deal in a new synthetic drug called nuke. Oddly enough, the film seems to spend an inordinate amount of time with the villains and much less with RoboCop.

The bad guys are led by a boss with a god complex, which leads to some rather tacky religious contrivances that are linked to slimeball drug-pushers.

But perhaps the film's most disturbing aspect is the way it treats children.

A scene in the film's second half shows a Little League team, led by its coach, robbing a stereo store, as team members beat the store owner with baseball bats. Is this supposed to be funny?

Wait, it gets worse.

One of the main villains is a young boy (Gabriel Damon), who seems to be 11 or 12. He kills without mercy, swears like Eddie Murphy and feigns goodness when he wants to get close enough to adults that he can strangle them. This kid becomes a central character, eventually getting a deathbed scene that strives for sympathy the character doesn't deserve.

     

Nancy Allen and Peter Weller on a Lobby Card for 'RoboCop 2.'

There are some funny commercials and TV news clips again, with many actors from the first film reprising their supporting characters. But none of them have very much to do. Even second-billed Nancy Allen comes and goes so that we never know whether she's still a part of the movie.

Eventually, of course, there's the showdown with a raging, out-of-control, updated RoboCop prototype. But the movie is so full of plot holes and unresolved situations that often it makes no sense, and this is the strangest example:

The early RoboCops being developed to follow in Murphy's footsteps, keep committing suicide, supposedly because cops' brains being used for these cyborgs are unstable.

So the mad scientist assigned to resolve the problem decides to use a psychotic death-row inmate instead of a cop for the next RoboCop.

Say again?

Despite a few laughs and some exciting moments, "RoboCop 2" is a mess.

And parents should really think twice before letting their youngsters see the example made of children in this picture.

It is rated R, of course, for considerable violence, gore and profanity.

Robocop 3: As often happens by the second sequel (see the "Look Who's Talking Now" review on page W-7), "RoboCop 3" is merely a pale imitation of the original.

There is an interesting trend at work here, however, as this film tries to be a little more politically correct so it can earn a PG-13 rating and thus get younger kids into the theater. The first two "RoboCops" were very hard R-rated flicks.

In this film's very bleak future, Old Detroit is still crime-ridden, despite the presence of RoboCop (with Robert John Burke replacing Peter Weller), the half-man/half robot crime fighter who uses superhuman strength and computerized intelligence to battle bad guys.

And things are getting worse for the common folk, as Omni Consumer Products begins work on Delta City, an urban neighborhood being sold as crime-free and environmentally perfect. Omni is also in the midst of a Japanese takeover, pitting a foolish, bumbling American CEO (Rip Torn) against an efficient, evil Japanese CEO (Mako). ("Demolition Man" meets "Rising Sun.")

Meanwhile, military troops, led by evil Commander McDaggett (John Castle), are knocking down apartment buildings and transporting residents to "relocation" camps. And many are being killed in the process.

     

          Nancy Allen, Robert John Burke, 'RoboCop 3'

So, it is left to an underground group of rebels, led by Bertha (CCH Pounder), to try and make things right, a rag-tag organization that gets a boost when they are joined by an orphaned young girl Nikko (Remy Ryan) who also happens to be a computer wiz.

She is the link that eventually gets RoboCop to join their ranks as they go up against McDaggett and a cyborg ninja (Bruce Locke).

In a disturbing twist, gang members called "Splatterpunks" are recruited by McDaggett, given police weapons and then let loose on the general public. Given the current climate concerning gang violence, this is as wrong-headed a plot device as we've seen in some time.

Special effects are OK and RoboCop even gets to fly, using a specially designed jetpack. But it's all for naught, as this series has run out of fresh ideas.

The TV advertising spoofs are very weak and the self-deprecating jokey atmosphere seems forced.

And though Nancy Allen, Robert DoQui and Felton Perry reprise their roles, they are given very little to do.

"RoboCop 3" is rated PG-13 for considerable, if bloodless, violence, along with profanity and vulgarity.