Robocop (1987)

(Second viewing, On DVD, March 2017) Contrarily to most of the movies I’m revisiting recently, I didn’t have very fond memories of Robocop. For the past twenty years or so, I’ve been remembering as an overly violent, implausible, mean-spirited piece of exploitation. Having grown older and given it another chance, however, I’m forced to be more positive upon second viewing. Oh, I still think it’s overly violent, implausible and mean-spirited (the last of which makes the first two characteristic feel even worse) but I can now appreciate that it has quite a bit more on its mind than the average action SF movie. Its preoccupation with industrial decay, man/machine relationships and corporate corruption still ring as relevant today (even more so than its recent remake), adding considerable depth to the film. It’s also, thanks to director Paul Verhoeven, a finely crafted piece of entertainment—fast, darkly funny, cleverly presented and relentless in achieving its vision. Some of the special effects are dodgy today (especially ED-209), although much of the practical stuff remains well done. Peter Weller is fine in the lead role, but special posthumous mention has to be made of Miguel Ferrer as an actor who aged exceptionally well—his character here is young and brash and detestable, but by the end of his career Ferrer had grown in his unusual features and could play a fearsome leader. It all adds up to a notionally respectable result, even though the cynicism of the film is still a bit too dark for my taste. With this second viewing, I update my appreciation of Robocop upwards and note that at a time when I’m happy when a revisited film holds up to my good memories, it’s rare that I like it even more twenty years later.

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