Sunday, January 21, 2007

Movie Review: Robocop 4 ½ Stars

Paul Verhoeven is at his best when he’s directing science fiction, and satirical science fiction at that. As a matter of fact, the best science fiction tends to be satirical anyway -- A Clockwork Orange, Escape From New York -- and Robocop stands among them as one of the finest, if not most violent, examples of the genre.

Robocop is set in a Detroit of the near future, where crime is running rampant and megacorporations like OCP are stepping in -- much like privatized education -- to “manage” the police force. When police officer Alex J. Murphy (Peter Weller) is killed by some nasty cyberpunk hooligans, OCP company man Robert Morton (Miguel Ferrer) decides to use his body for his cyborg prototype Robocop. Robocop’s human memories as Murphy return, causing the android to override his directives and seek out the punks who gunned him down. In the meantime, he discovers that the crime lords are in league with OCP’s second-in-command Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) and that the police force, Robocop among them, are just pawns in the interoffice politics game.

Verhoeven’s adept handling of the material -- a top-notch script from Michael Miner -- balances hilarious satire, over-the-top comic book elements and high-intensity gunplay with solid performances from Weller, Cox and Ferrer. However, the stop-motion special effects, costume and sound design are the real stars of this film.

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