This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I picked “RoboCop.”
The Movie: “RoboCop”
Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) In a dystopic and crime-ridden Detroit, a terminally wounded cop returns to the force as a powerful cyborg haunted by submerged memories.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88 percent
Froemming: After being weirded out by Christopher Walken touching strangers last week, I decided the JOE-DOWN needed to get back to what we do best: Action movies from the 1980s. And what better one to appease our lizard brains than “RoboCop,” a tale which dares the viewers to imagine a world where Detroit — of all places — actually has computers and science, instead of fire and sadness. Before we get into this dystopian near-future which also acts as an origin story of Red Forman from “That ‘70s Show,” Brown why don’t you offer your thoughts of this little film.
Brown: “RoboCop” is one of those movies where I remembered very little. Sure, there was the claymation robot, the dude that turns into the Toxic Avenger and, of course, Red Forman. And after watching it earlier this week… again, that’s mostly what I remember.
Like any ‘80s flick, it’s all about the moments. Not necessarily a tangible plot.
It was interesting to me to revisit a Paul Verhoeven movie after one of our early JOE-DOWNS was “Starship Troopers.” Thankfully, not too many fascist undertones in this one. But, no dream girl Dizzy, so we’ll call it a wash.
Last point, and this is legit: Has there been any movie that has made Detroit look even passable?
Froemming: As I told you over the phone last week, Detroit is so hopeless that even in fiction it simply cannot prosper.
It is the near-future, according to Wikipedia, and Detroit is overcome with crime, which forces very little imagination of the audience. The mayor has signed a deal with Omni Consumer Products (OCP), a private company that will control the poorly-funded police department.
This movie is pretty much a warning on the dangers of privatization of police forces. At no point in this movie does OCP do something coming close to aiding the public welfare.
Enter young Alex Murphy, a newbie to the force.
Brown: And the blandest lead in ‘80s action movie history. He is a living, breathing white bread-and-mayonnaise sandwich. And that comes from someone who ate Miracle Whip sandwiches (by choice) as an elementary school student.
Froemming: Only in the ‘80s would Peter Weller be considered an action star. He also meets his new partner, Anne Lewis, and the chemistry between these two are…almost on par with Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala in the “Star Wars” prequels: Dead eyes and zero joy between the two.
We also get a glimpse of the big corporate world, where dealings and back stabbings are the norm, with OCP’s Bob Morton and Dick Jones. Two men with differing views on how to make robots gun down criminals.
A side note: There were three actors from the original run of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” in this: Miguel Ferrer, Daniel O’Herlihy and Ray Wise, which made the nerd in me smile.
Brown: Still have never seen an episode of “Twin Peaks.”
Froemming: I almost made you sit through “Eraserhead” after I saw your pick for next week. Then I realized calmer heads needed to prevail.
Brown: So, this board meeting. I’ll give it this: It’s not as awkward as the board room from “Birdemic.” But man, did it bother me that the feckless cowards in that board room would clap after every single damn point a superior would make. Perhaps that’s a statement on ‘80s Wall Street business. Then again, this is a movie about a robot police officer…
Here, we are introduced to the ED-209, which moves via claymation. And just like the original “Terminator,” seeing that janky walk cycle makes my heart sing. You know, before ED’s test goes wrong and he turns a hapless corporate croney into shredded pork. First, why are you putting live rounds in that thing? Second, someone yells for a paramedic. The man is literal Swiss cheese. There’s no paramedic who can cure man-made deli meat.
Froemming: When life shuts a door on a poor executive after a crony is gunned down by a robot, a window is opened for his rival. And Bob Morton takes his chance to promote his concept, despite the fact a man in the same room looks like an exploded ketchup bottle because dumb Dick Jones didn’t foresee glitches in technology.
Morton proposes his RoboCop concept: Take a man and put him in a robot suit, clear his memory and force him to act on the company’s demands…wait, why did they need a human being in the suit if they just wanted a robot?
These questions aside, we see Murphy and Anne chasing after a gang of bank robbers, led by Clarence Boddicker (whom I will from now on only refer to as Red Forman). Murphy doesn’t consider what a dumbass he is, and doesn’t foresee that foot in his ass when he tries to stand up to a muffler shop owner from Point Place, Wis.
Brown: Quick aside: If you were to remake this movie (not counting the reboot that was made a couple years ago), who are you casting to play Clarence Boddicker?
Froemming: I would recast Kurtwood Smith. I think he plays a fantastic antagonist in this. Pop culture has just immortalized him as the dad from “That ‘70s Show,” which is difficult to divorce him from. You?
Brown: Rainn Wilson. All those pent-up years of playing Dwight Schrute, I want Rainn to just let it all out and go over the top with it.
You are right, Kurtwood Smith did a fantastic job playing what is a very, very unconventional violent A-hole.
So this chase goes through the streets of Detroit and into an abandoned steel mill (really, any abandoned building in Detroit would be applicable). And this bugs the (REDACTED) out of me: During the whole shootout, we see that the bad guys are firing off high-powered shotguns with slugs. And when they get to the steel mill, do Murphy and Lewis grab shotguns or rifles out of the trunk to best protect themselves? NOPE. They use pistols for close-quarters combat against MEN WIELDING SHOTGUNS. Years of video-game playing have taught me this is a stupid idea.
Sorry, Murph, you kind of deserve what you get here when you don’t plan for stuff like this.
Lastly, because ‘80s, Lewis is subdued by a bad guy because she had to look at his penis.
Froemming: They get no backup because this gang is protected by the police, because let’s add corruption to the laundry list of terrible that is Detroit.
And, I laughed out loud during Murphy’s murder scene. They fire, like, 75 rounds into the guy and he somehow lives?
It is insane. But the paramedics arrive and we see Murphy’s transformation from good-hearted cop to machine man! Because he signed a release giving OCP the right to do anything with his dead body, a startling warning to the audience to always read the fine print.
Brown: Yeah, Murphy is screaming as slugs are ripping through his lungs. It’s like rewatching the ending to “Red Dead Redemption.” Only in that game, the protagonist dies. Here, Murphy survives A SLUG THROUGH HIS BRAIN! He should be next-level dead but nope, because this movie wasn’t going to end after 20 minutes.
Froemming: SPOILERS! I haven’t finished that game yet!
Brown: It’s been out since 2010, an eternity in gaming. That’s on you.
Back to the movie, during surgery, they are showing buckshot wounds on Murphy. Be consistent, you jerks.
I’m not a brain surgeon, but considering that I can see through the right side of Murphy’s skull, he (according to Google) lost his ability to control the left side of his body, as well as face recognition, his ability to read spatial relationships and show emotion (wait, Murphy lacked in that category before). Machinery isn’t replacing that lost part of his brain that is getting sun-bleached on a vacant steel mill floor.
Yes, I know I’m thinking too much into a movie called “RoboCop.”
Froemming: Following Murphy becoming a spaghetti dinner in a steel mill, we get a montage of nerds making him into his destiny: RoboCop. They even get drunk on New Years, and a woman plants a kiss on this grotesque-looking monster (Murphy looks very creepy without his helmet).
But the day finally arrives, and the scientists and Morton can parade this robot-man around the precinct, where RoboCop dazzles the officers with his uncanny ability to shoot firearms.
He is a (REDACTED) machine, I would hope he would not have the jitters firing weapons. He should always hit with 100 percent accuracy.
Brown: We also get a look into RoboCop’s new life. First, he eats what amounts to baby food and looks like a Coca-Cola slushie at a movie theater. And we get our Chekov’s Gun where RoboCop’s fourth directive is classified.
The reason RoboCop HAS to eat is because they have to maintain the organic parts of his body. … Why? Why make anything organic about RoboCop? You want RoboCop to exercise free will as opposed to serving justice via killing spree like he does the entire movie? We’ll see later that letting RoboCop have his own sentience makes him go off the rails.
RoboCop gets his first test in the field and what does he do? Shoots a convenience store robber in the junk. Eric Cartman does not approve (NSFW).
Froemming: Hey! He is cleaning up the mean streets of Detroit. Shooting robbers in the old twig and berries is the only way to stop them!
Yes, RoboCop is very good at stopping crime violently. To the point I thought maybe the damage he caused throwing robbers through walls would probably be more expensive than just not doing that and arresting them. But it was the 1980s, and things were different.
Brown: Also, that shop owner, who hides a safe under a stack of beer cans?
Froemming: There was a lot of cocaine consumption in this era, Brown, no need to overthink the beer-can-stack-safe.
RoboCop is so good that Morton is now flying toward the top, but finds he might have soared too close to the sun because he is now in the sights of Dick Jones, who doesn’t appreciate being upped in the eyes of the Old Man at the company (the CEO has no name, and is credited as the Old Man). But as you mentioned earlier, this robot-man has a man still in him, and memories begin to trickle back.
Like I said before: Why the (REDACTED) did they need a human in this thing when all they wanted was a robot?
Brown: You know how you don’t get upped in a company, Dick? You don’t create a robot that you can’t control. You don’t display said faulty robot during a boardroom meeting. And you sure as (REDACTED) don’t put live rounds into the (REDACTED) thing! Your anger is unjustified.
So, RoboCop/Murphy starts to have flashbacks of his previous robot-free life. And I couldn’t stop laughing because as Murphy is having images of his death, he’s jerking around in his chair like a dog that’s having a running dream.
Also, had to look it up again: A slug through the right side of your brain affects… memory! So, RoboCop shouldn’t waltz into his old house and dream about his son and wife as Max Headroom plays virtual real estate salesman.
Quick thought: This movie will have strange commercials thrown in during newscasts. And around this time, there is one for a board game called “Nukem.” Holy (REDACTED), I wanted to play that.
Froemming: Oh yeah. I put in my notes that I wanted that to be a real thing.
Now, Morton has been promoted. And how does Dick Jones show his appreciation? He sends Red Forman to Morton’s private cocaine orgy to put a foot in his ass.
With Morton now dead from this visit, and RoboCop trying to realize his true identity so he can go all “The Crow” on this gang’s butts, Anne is also realizing that RoboCop looks a lot like her goofy dead partner who got all his limbs shot off for trying to do his job.
Brown: Lewis recognizes Murphy as RoboCop because RoboCop twirls his gun like Murphy does as an homage to his son.
After his trip down suburban memory lane, RoboCop checks the police database and finds out that he died and is now pretty much in machine purgatory. So, a cold, not-feeling robot suddenly has a lust for revenge. Uhh, directive three is “Uphold the law,” and he’s now a vigilante because he starts hunting down Boddicker’s crew. That’s failing directive three.
Froemming: And he tracks them to their cocaine factory, a place I imagine really exists for Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer. And RoboCop is kicking ass and spraying coke all over the place, which I imagine would make those standing around high as hell.
Forman can’t believe what this dumbass has done. He is protected! He tells RoboCop that he is protected by Jones, that he works for the man, which RoboCop videotapes. But RoboCop’s directive is to uphold the law, not recognize unwritten laws of the seedy underworld, so he arrests Red.
Brown: I would arrest Boddicker for wearing a poorly-tailored suit and for dipping his fingers into another man’s wine. That’s so damn gross.
So, after his vigilantism, RoboCop breaks another law when he rolls through a stop sign in front of the OCP building. Yes, that is extremely nitpicky, but he’s a robot who must uphold the law. And he committed a traffic crime.
However, he has a corporate higher-up to confront, so he comes to arrest Dick Jones. And THAT’S where directive four kicks in. In RoboCop’s programming, he shuts down when trying to arrest anyone on OCP’s executive board. So, no arrest, but the cocky idiot Jones spouts out about how he killed Morton in front of RoboCop, who can record every conversation and has surveillance all over his damn body…
So bad guys try to murder Murphy all over again as Jones sends out ED to rip through our metal hero. However, ED didn’t count on his greatest foe: Stairs. … Stairs.
Froemming: Hey, Mr. Jones. If you are going to create a robot cop, how about one that a. Doesn’t shoot innocent people at board meetings and b. One that can handle stairs. RoboCop may walk like how young Forrest Gump did in his leg braces, but he can at least handle stairwells. There is a reason Morton got that promotion over you.
ED isn’t RoboCop’s only worry now. Detroit’s finest is on his trail as well, shooting at a fellow police officer who dared to arrest a white-collar criminal.
Good thing Anne shows up and saves Murphy. Talk about great timing!
Where does she take him, you ask? Why, to that steel mill where he was brutally gunned down. I guess nobody will be looking for them there.
But are there any cops to look for him? There is this subplot about the force going on strike, fearing RoboCops will replace them. That’s nice in theory, but they need to remember RoboCops won’t be able to strike, because they are robots that live off brown goo for sustenance and do not need money.
Brown: Lewis, who I kept thinking was Dotty from “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” for some reason, discuss Murphy’s past life and RoboCop drops some dumb line about how he can feel his family but doesn’t remember them. Wait, didn’t you have some flashback where you were remembering your son in his devil costume at the old house?
Meanwhile, the hit is on for RoboCop and Boddicker and his men are on the case with cobra assault rifles, which are the coolest guns in movie history. It pretty much blows up anything in its sights. They keep shooting up a sketchy neighborhood which, frankly, improves Detroit.
Because they literally went to the same damn place where Murphy’s brain matter is still fresh, we have a manhunt on our hands between a robot cop and a group of men who look like middle-aged dads.
Froemming: Well, Ray Wise a few years after this went on to play Leland Palmer, so yeah, these dudes are totally middle-aged dads reliving their criminal youth in Detroit.
And this battle scene leads to one of the funniest and most disgusting deaths I have seen in a movie. One of the gang members, whose name escapes me now because these guys are pretty forgettable, has this happen to him:
Remember folks, never crash into an object CLEARLY labeled “Toxic Waste.”
Brown: I think it bugs me more that when Toxic Avenger there gets hit by the car, it’s not blood. Rather, it’s some watery, pus-like liquid. *Shudder*
After Lewis takes out a henchman with the cobra, RoboCop gets his stabby revenge with the spike that acts as both a weapon and R2-D2’s data thingy (technical term).
So, it’s time to try once again to arrest Dick Jones. Not before running ANOTHER stop sign and blowing up ED with a cobra. UPHOLD THE LAW! STOP!
A board meeting is taking place and RoboCop interrupts the proceedings without an appointment. It’s there that RoboCop plays the audio of Jones admitting to murder before telling the board he cannot arrest the man due to directive four. In a panic, Jones grabs a gun and holds the chairman of OCP hostage. However, the chairman listened to RoboCop and fires Jones, which removes him from the board and from directive four.
RoboCop fires, Jones falls out the window and transforms into some weird “Beetlejuice”-type monster as he plummets to his death?
Froemming: Well, RoboCop learned about loopholes with that. It was a big day of lessons for our hero.
And with the day saved, the Old Man asks RoboCop what his name is and replies “Murphy.” Because he is his old self again! Well, he doesn’t have his human body and his head looks like a mutant from “Total Recall” and he has lost his family and people fear him and his fellow officers dislike him because he is the wave of the future, but still.
Let’s drive ourselves through some toxic waste over to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Sure. It is a dumb action flick with a paper-thin plot, but sometimes you need that to have some fun.
Brown: I would recommend it. I had fun. And it’s got that perfect mix of ‘80s cheesiness that always knows how to tickle me. Just shut off your brain while watching.