Home CultureMovies You’ve Gotta See Robocop – Essential Cyberpunk Cinema

You’ve Gotta See Robocop – Essential Cyberpunk Cinema

by Cory De La Guardia
Robocop

With director Paul Verhoeven mixing cynical satire with classics 80s action, 1987s Robocop became an instant cyberpunk classic.

The story of a city on the brink of fiscal disaster and a company filled with questionable executives being a technological marriage while shredding the ethics and morality of the human condition is exactly the kind of movie the 80s was built to make.  Robocop is that film and one worth watching if you’ve never seen it.

Robocop tells the story of Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), a ruggedly handsome police officer who dies in the line of duty. He is brought back to life and used as the prototype.  He is the future of law enforcement as brought to you by Omni Consumer Products (OCP).  

A cyborg with a built in holster in his thigh and access to all kinds of police data and protocol, Robocop is brought in as a test to see if corporations can ease the financial burden of police work.  Eventually, Robocop uncovers corruption and a disturbingly inappropriate relationship between a gang of thugs and corporate officers in OCP. However, he is unable to do anything about it due to an imperative built into his coding.  

Eventually, the city’s in ruins and overrun with crime as the police strike in an effort to protect their own jobs and reject the Robocop program.  The police, as well as the criminals, are all against Robocop. With the help of his partner Officer Lewis (Nancy Allen), Murphy overcomes the odds and the obstacles to saves the day in typical hero fashion.  

The film does an awesome job staying relevant in today’s world. It achieves this by being true to a plot that at first blush seems incredibly unlikely.  A corporation privatizing police work for the good of the world until corruption rears its head seems unreal until its simply not.

You’ve gotta see Robocop.

You've Gotta See Robocop - Essential Cyberpunk Cinema

Robocop is on Patrol

The character of Murphy feels like a hero in a spaghetti western shoved directly into a can of science fiction and then pulled out after the paint dried.  A lone gunslinger who decides to solve his own murder, Murphy finds himself at odds with his own police squad, the corporation who makes and maintains him and the city itself.  

Yet even still, he goes out and makes the hard choices and puts the bad guys away, fixes himself and then puts the rest of the bad guys away. He even battles his own internal nature before the CEO of OCP fires Jones (Ronny Cox), relieving him of the conflict of code. Although, it didn’t solve the bigger issue of OCP being safe from being arrested by Robocop. 

Murphy also gets one of the best lines in 80’s cinema: “Dead or alive you’re coming with me”. He also gets one of the most iconic action movie moments by shooting an attempted rapist in the balls. The city of Detroit is safe as long as Robocop is on patrol.

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You've Gotta See Robocop - Essential Cyberpunk Cinema

ED-209 is a Monster Machine

Seriously, this bad boy was just cool.  This massive robot looked so futuristic and intimidating. The first time you see this walking tank, it malfunctions and just obliterates some poor boardroom schmuck.  The machine from every science fiction mech suit wet dream is portrayed so over the top early on that it actually growls. Even though it never is working properly, it somehow is an intimidating foe for Robocop to face towards the climax of the movie.

It is flipping cool and seriously looking throughout. The stop motion animation was the perfect choice for the effects available at the time. That has allowed it to age gracefully.

You've Gotta See Robocop - Essential Cyberpunk Cinema

Kurtwood Smith will Stick his Foot up your Ass

C’mon seriously, how crazy is it seeing Foreman’s Dad doing drugs and killing people with uzis and cursing up a storm?  He has one of the best villain’s lines in any movie: “Bitches Leave”.  When he comes into Morton’s place to get rid of him, Morton (Miguel Ferrer) parties with cocaine and hookers in the ultimate example of 80s decadence.

Smith firmly tells them to go, which they then do quickly while terrified.  In this film, Smith is the perfect 80’s movie villain with tons of great one liners and a big over the top flair for the dramatic. He simply steals every scene he’s in during the first two thirds of the movie when everything is going his way.  

The craziest thing about all of it though isn’t how good he is. It’s watching the film through a prism of modern pop culture where Kurtwood Smith has gracefully aged into the role of America’s father figure in many shows and films.  Stern and earnest, he fits naturally into those roles but here he is in a different era. Dude is just chopping up Detroit with his henchman, taking advantage of a city on the brink.

You've Gotta See Robocop - Essential Cyberpunk Cinema

How Meta is this Movie?

The idea of a bankrupt Detroit falling to criminals during a police strike as the city goes broke feels like it could happen tomorrow.  It’s incredible to think that, while fictional, the whole storyline feels like something that would happen in any major city in America. Particularly in poor Detroit, which has had some hard times financially and socially here as of late.  

The idea of a major corporation stepping in and trying to help change policing with some out of the box thinking and using technology as a shortcut to civil service isn’t as far-fetched as I could throw Robocop. And here’s a hint, that’s not far at all.  Corporations have slowly worked their way into private jails and private international armies, so the idea of a corporate police force isn’t too far off. All they need is a city that can’t afford to properly police itself anymore.

Obviously, the recent remake failed to find the same relevant beats in tone and story, but was a prettier version overall. However, there’s only one version of Robocop that is required watching to keep your nerd card and it’s the original.  

So to paraphrase America’s dad: “Nerds watch.”

We know cyberpunk movies, so let us tell you what you’re missing. What’s timeless? What didn’t age so well? Share this article, and we’ll make the case for Robocop.

Did we miss something here? Was there an unforgettable scene or classic one-liner that just shouldn’t be left out? What are your favorite parts of this movie? Leave us a comment below, and we’ll try to update the article with your suggestions!

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