Boddicker: Bitches, leave!
After watching a few Paul Verhoeven movies like TOTAL RECALL, STARSHIP TROOPERS and ROBOCOP, these things become very clear:
1. Verhoeven does not have a very good outlook on the future.
2. Science and technology are not his strong suit (nor is getting the most out of his actors or writers).
3. Corporations are bad. Especially when Ronny Cox is in charge of them.
ROBOCOP doesn’t have the best special effects. The acting is, as is the style in most Verhoeven’s movies, leaning towards the cheesier end of bad. But damn is it fun!
ROBOCOP is the story of officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), father and husband, who gets transferred to a new precinct and dies on his first day. He is blown to pieces by the local crime lord, Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). He is then put back together by OCP, a company that has recently purchased the police force and has come up with the “Robocop” program. They want to put a cyborg on the force so that there is someone on duty 24/7. OCP head, played by Ronny Cox, has teamed up with the criminal element in order to get more civil and military funding. The only thing that stands in their way now is Robocop.
The filmmakers bleak view of the future is announced right from the beginning of the movie. The ED209 is the prototype OCP was originally planning on producing before Robocop but, during the demonstration, it killed one of the executives attending the meeting. The way the people react in this meeting is like someone just spilled some water on the desk. The death itself is very gruesome, which is a recurring complaint about this movie, but really knocks us out of the “just another action movie” mentality we may have had going into this sci-fi blockbuster. And it does this right off the bat. Enter Robocop. When the ED209 failed its presentation, another ambitious executive jumps in to take advantage of the situation, being the massacre of his friend and colleague, and pushes his project forward to the front of the line. These cyborgs, or robot cops, are being created partly because of the recent increased number in cop killings, as crime has really spiked in the future.
The main reason people keep going back to watch ROBOCOP is for the heart behind the robot. You’re routing for Alex Murphy to get his memories back and for him to get back as much of his humanity, all the while ridding Detroit of its crime issues. There’s something endearing about the soft centre in the middle of this metallic tootsie roll pop, this new Alex Murphy. Though his voice is a robotic monotone, there’s personality behind what he says and how he answers questions, like the sarcasm that comes out when he says things like, “Dead or Alive, you’re coming with me.” There’s sly comedy to this gore-filled action movie. And that is what Verhoeven brings to the table in his movies. No matter what genre they are supposed to be, there will always be some humour. No matter how serious the message – big, bad corporations are taking over the world and controlling our lives but at least we can laugh about it.
ROBOCOP screens tonight at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, as part of TIFF’s screening series, Flesh + Blood: The Films of Paul Verhoeven. For more information and for tickets, visit tiff.net.