In advance of the big RoboCop reboot opening this week (starring Joel "You're My Ride, Linden" Kinnaman!), I thought it an opportune moment to take a look back at 1987's original robot-who-is-also-a-cop masterpiece that forever cemented the idea of a robot being a cop in the public consciousness. Like, it's not normal that you can just use "a RoboCop" as a noun and every nearby person will be like, "Oh, yes, that is a type of fictional cop with which I am familiar." Really, grandma!?!?!
I'm not sure why, but I'd never actually seen the original RoboCop. Or, if I did, all my memories of it have been utterly obliterated by 8,000 subsequent viewings of Clue and the video for Bon Jovi's "Blaze of Glory." Robots who were also cops were simply not on single-digit Lindy's to-do list. (Plus, 1987 was also the year of Dirty Dancing AND The Princess Bride AND Three Men and a Baby AND Spaceballs AND Lethal Weapon AND Evil Dead 2. We were all busy that year.)
But clearly this RoboCop shit captured hella hearts and minds, because they're making another one of it, and also STATUE. So, in the spirit of my previous forays into American nostalgia-cinema (see also: Titanic, Jurassic Park, Love Actually), I re-watched RoboCop so you don't have to—although you probably should, because it is fucking boss.
Spoilers, all the way through.
Okay. We open with Leeza Gibbons. LEEZA, QUEEN OF THE GIBBONS, YOU GUYS. IS IN THIS MOVIE. (BRB, pouring one out for Talk Soup.) Leeza is reporting the news, and the news is bad. Everyone in Detroit is in a fight, everyone in South Africa is in a fight, an evil corporation is doing something boneheaded as usual (BUSINESSMEN, AMIRITE), but—upside!!!—you can get a robot heart now. Foreshadowing!
Over at the police station, all the police officers are mega-grumpy because apparently these Einsteins just realized that they're not regular police officers—they're dystopian police officers, which has to be the world's shittiest aha moment. One second you're bopping along all, "Doodly-doo," and the next you're like, "Waitaminnit...how many garbage fires does one town need? Oh. Shit." Silver lining, though: In the dystopian future, man-cops and lady-cops all change in the same locker room because the future is just cool about boobs like that! Wooooo! Spring break!!! (Too bad Detroit abolished Spring.)
There's a new man-cop on the scene, and his name is Murphy (played by "actor, trumpet player, and Italian Renaissance art history lecturer" Peter Weller—have you read Peter Weller's Wikipedia page, by the way!? I'LL WAIT). The thing about Peter Weller is that Peter Weller's countenance is almost too on-the-nose for a movie called RoboCop. Like...you kind of wonder if the movie wasn't originally just called Cop, and they had to scramble for a plan B halfway through filming when they discovered that Peter Weller is literally a robot. He's robotic, is what I'm saying. It works, though. Robot movie.
Peter Weller gets assigned a sassy short-haired lady-partner named Lewis (Nancy Allen, a.k.a. the worst bitch from Carrie) and he is only a little bit sexist to her! Yay, the future! They head out to locate crime.
Meanwhile, in business town, some business men are talking business. Robot business. Detroit's criminals are so crimey, you see, and its police officers so grumpy, that the government has decided to outsource law enforcement to OmniCorp (which is some sort of corporation that manufactures nefariousness, robots, and Miguel-Ferrer-making-a-lemon-face). This business guy name Dick waltzes in all smug and is like, "You guys. I made the bitchingest crime robot ever. Its name is ED-209, it is my best friend, and it is seh gehd at blowing up crime. Also Miguel Ferrer can sniff my dong." [Miguel Ferrer puckers, angrily.]
Then Dick demonstrates ED-209's "urban pacification" skillz on some guy named Mr. Kenny, except instead of pacifying Mr. Kenny, ED-209 just shoots him until he explodes. (To be fair, Mr. Kenny was pretty garbage at being in demonstrations.) All the businessmen are hella exasperated at Dick for getting chunks of Mr. Kenny all over their future-suits, so Miguel Ferrer seizes the moment to pitch his own crime-fighting robot. RoboCop!!!
In order to make a RoboCop, you basically need two ingredients: some robo and a cop. So Miguel Ferrer & Co. send Murphy and Lewis out to chase after the dad from That '70s Show, who is the worst criminal in Detroit and possibly the best movie villain of 1987 (take that, Mr. and Mrs. Schumacher from the Sheldrake!). They corner the dad from That '70s Show and his United Henchmen of Benetton at some abandoned warehouse thingy, where Lewis just stands around until the most dodo henchman of them all punches her in the face and she falls down (seriously, she's like a less competent Mr. Kenny). Then the henchmen all stand around having a pun contest and shooting Murphy with a bunch of guns until he explodes. He dies.
OR DOES HE? (He doesn't. He becomes RoboCop. Please pay attention.)
When Murphy wakes up from his RoboComa, he discovers that every single part of him except for his face and brain has been replaced by robot parts and all he can eat is baby food, which I guess means that he still has human a stomach and also poops, but of course no one wants to answer the tough questions. Murphy is now half ro and half bocop!!! It's cool, though, because even though he's been transformed against his will into a horrific abomination with an enormous rubber face who's lost his family, his memories, and his ability to love, he also gets to NEVER STOP TOILING AS A LOW-LEVEL INNER-CITY BEAT COP. (I assume robots aren't entitled to any protections from the Department of Labor and Industries. Other than free baby food for life, apparently.)
RoboCop is pretty jazzed, though. He's programmed with four inalienable directives—1) Serve the public trust, 2) Protect the innocent, 3) Uphold the law, and 4) [CLASSIFIED]—and he can't wait to start carrying them out.
He hops in his Taurus (ROBOCOP DRIVES A TAURUS) and vrooms out into the streets where he shoots a rapist in the penis for attempting to steal a woman's hair. Then he tells the woman, "Madam, you have suffered an emotional shock. I will notify a rape crisis center." (Note to real police: How is it possible that some of you have less humanity when dealing with sexual assault victims than a 1980s fictional robot?)
All of Detroit is a-buzzing with the news: "There's a new guy in town. His name is RoboCop!" Listen up, ladies! He doesn't have very many friends, and he's not technically HWP (6'2", 9000 pounds), but he is single and he loves to
laugh writhe in anguish while experiencing violent flashbacks of his horrific mutilation! Also, his family left him for dead, so there's no nag of a mother-in-law to critique your vol-au-vent.
RoboCop breaks out of the RoboLab to go find his family. (Dude, RoboCop monitors—you had one job.) A henchman named Emil is robbing a gas station nearby—for more bolo tie money, prolly—and he somehow manages to recognize Peter Weller's lips from 20 feet away in the dark while being yelled at by a crazed robot. (That is how you become a woman in my culture, actually.) So Emil is like, "We killed you!" and RoboCop is like, "Big mistake. Huge." Because Rule #1 of RoboCop, Emil! Never talk to RoboCop about how you killed RoboCop. (Rule #2 of Robocop...maybe just shoot RoboCop in his chin? Anyone? Hello? Giant brain-adjacent face-hole? Helloooooo?)
That Dick guy from earlier sends the dad from That '70s Show (whose name is Boddicker, by the way—this reference is getting unwieldy) to blow up Miguel Ferrer with a grenade at his cocaine party. Afterwards, Boddicker heads over to the cocaine factory for an important meeting. But then—BANG BANG BANG—what's that at the door? I think it might be a robot who's also a cop! Who also loves cocaine!
RoboCop beats up Boddicker, who reveals that he works for Dick. So RoboCop stomps over to OmniCorp to arrest Dick, but then he can't because he gets all constipated with Directive-4-itis! Turns out, RoboCop's "classified" 4th directive is "Any attempt to arrest a senior executive results in shutdown." It was Dick's idea. Dick thinks he's really fucking smart.
Dick brings in ED-209 to destroy RoboCop, but when the fight moves into the stairwell, ED-209 is immediately defeated by stairs like a baby labrador. Which...I guess answers the question of why it's better to have a robot that is part man. Stairs. It knows how to walk down stairs. Kind of anticlimactic, really.
After a big shoot-out with the human cops, RoboCop reunites with Lewis, who helps him repair his RoboWounds and also kind of maybe wants to get bizzay.
Dick is determined to destroy RoboCop once and for all, so he gives Boddicker a car and a bunch of really big guns. Because sure. Literally the entire police force couldn't kill RoboCop with one million guns, so a cool plan is probably to send five guys with slightly bigger guns and a SUX 3000. Iron-clad.
RoboCop rolls up on the scene and all the bad guys are like, "Shit! A Taurus!!!" Boddicker shoots Lewis and she falls in a puddle. Emil panics and drives a van into a toxic waste tank. After Emil's done melting, Laura Palmer's dad dumps a bunch of rebar on top of RoboCop, so Lewis shoots him. Then Boddicker stabs RoboCop in the shoulder, and RoboCop stabs Boddicker in the neck with his built-in flash drive. Now there is only one villain left. DICK.
RoboCop still can't wail on Dick because of Directive 4, but he tattles to OmniCorp's CEO about Dick's dickishness. So then the CEO is like, "Dick, you're fired!" And it's LOOPHOLE TIME! DIRECTIVE 4 OVERRIDE!!!!!!!!!! Now that Dick isn't RoboCop's boss anymore, RoboCop throws Dick out a window. The end.
IN CONCLUSION, ROBOCOP IS AMAZING.
Illuatration by Jim Cooke.