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Dutch director Paul Verhoeven has just the right knife-twisting wit to pull off this cop killer-thriller set in a sleazier future Detroit. The cyberpunk aesthetic of corporatized government, media simulacrum, and a world where all the scum rises to the surface, is everywhere evident in this film.

Paul Weller plays Murphy, a cop who is literally shot to pieces by a psychopathic gang. OCP, the company that owns the Detroit police department, uses this unfortunate occurrence as an opportunity to turn Murphy into an experimental cyborg. He emerges a steel-shod knight in shining circuitry who politely blows away legions of cardboard criminals.

Besides all the squishy fun and wry commentary, there are some deeper explorations here as the robotized Murphy comes to grips with his new body, and as he begins to have flashbacks of his former life, family, etc. About three quarters of the way through the film, all pretense is dropped as the film becomes almost slapstick in its rush to a formulaic conclusion.

Robo Cop II (1990), directed by Irvin Kershner, picks up where Robo Cop left off and drags it further into a toxic swamp of stupid plot, tired cyborg jokes, and cheesy special effects. The only redeeming value of II is in the futuristic TV commercials that incut the main storyline. They show the same twisted sense of dark humor that made RoboCop so appealing.

(G. Branwyn)


1987, Orion Pictures.

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