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Synopsis

Welcome to Detroit, sometime in the near future. The city’s a cesspool. Its streets are overrun by homicidal criminals. Greedy industrialists, charged with protecting the common good, are bleeding the place dry. Enter Officer Alex Murphy. He’s an honest cop, freshly transferred to the city’s anarchic Metro West precinct. He’s also one unfortunate cop, savagely cut down the first day on the job. Not to worry. Thanks to the miracle of cybernetics, Murphy will rise again as the city’s most unlikely savior.

Why We Love It

Every time I watch Robocop, I’m left baffled. It simply shouldn’t be as great as it is. There’s no reason why a cheesily named ’80s action flick should double as an incisive commentary on the perils of unfettered greed. There’s no reason for a movie about a crime-fighting cyborg to wrestle with existentialism.

Frankly, all we need from a movie like this is for it to deliver a steady stream of ass-kickery, preferably leavened with some cheesy one-liners. That’s all I expected on that fateful summer afternoon when, at age 12, I settled in with a ginormous bucket of popcorn and 120-ounce Coke to watch Robocop lurch into action.

I got exactly that, but so much more. Robocop has been a film that I’ve grown into.

One of the most obvious aspects of the film that I couldn’t appreciate back then was the way it extrapolated trends in government and commerce to terrifying extremes. For decades, there’s been pressure to privatize more and more delivery of essential public services. The theory is that the private sector will always be more effective and efficient than government. Robocop humorously challenges that theory and questions whether a corporation, with the fundamental purpose of maximizing its own profit, can always be trusted to have the public’s best interests at heart. Robocop suggests that at some point, you have to draw a line.

Moment We Fell In Love

There’s one word of dialogue in Robocop that has the power to elicit an involuntary “Hell, yeah!” every time I see it.

It signals that, after a torturous journey across the River Styx and back again, our hero has emerged with his soul intact. After Robocop has just slain his arch-villain, he’s asked “What’s your name?” With a smile, he replies “Murphy.”

Is there a more perfect ending in the whole of cinema? I think not.

Final Thoughts

If the long-promised remake of Robocop ever gets made, it’s going to have fulfill a tall order. Somehow it’s going to have to, at the very least, pack the same visceral wallop and the same fast-paced but meaningful storytelling.

If it doesn’t, though, I’m not going to bitch about how Hollywood is once again desecrating my fondest childhood memories. There’s already one Robocop for the ages, and nothing will ever diminish its brilliance.

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