RoboCop (1987)


“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me!”

The Scoop: 1987 R, director Paul Verhoeven and starring Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Kurtwood Smith, and Miguel Ferrer

Tagline: Part man. Part machine. All cop. The future of law enforcement.

Summary Capsule: Half man, half machine, all cop battles the nefarious OCP corporation and criminal gangs alike in future Detriot.

Rich’s rating: Serve The Public Trust, Protect The Innocent, Uphold The Law, Entertain The Masses.

Rich’s review: Being a young man of a certain age, I can look back at the films of the late 80’s with a kind of nostalgia that its hard to put into words; things were great for us rowdy young teens back then, especially in cinema, because the mid-to-late ’80s gave us a number of action role models all in one big lump. For me, four films from that era defined everything I wanted from my action films from that point on – we were the generation of John McLaine in Nakatomi Plaza, Dutch Callaghan against the invisible Predator, Ripley, Hicks, and the rest of the Colonial Marines against the Xenomorphs… and RoboCop, ED209, and Clarence Boddicker and his gang.

Every guy in my class has seen all those films by the time we were 13. They were the talk of the schoolyard, and with the combination of guns, explosions, punchy one liners, fistfights, more guns, more explosions, and a combined body count reaching into the thousands, these films fired our imaginations and made us the stable, balanced, and well adjusted human beings we are today. Before sequels and censorship and slightly more responsible and less completely gratuitously violent stories came to the fore, these films were burned into our minds, and endless weeks were spent in discussion as to whether Robocop could beat The Predator, or what John McLaine would do if the Aliens took over Nakatomi Plaza instead.

And so, it was a nostalgia flavoured flashback to age 15 when I watched Robocop on TV again last week; quickly followed by a sting of total amazement that somehow neither it or its sequels had received the recognition they quite obviously deserve by having their own review pages here at Mutant Reviewers. Good job I’m here to address that unfortunate error.

So here’s the deal for everyone who’s been living under a rock for the last 20 years; at some unspecified time in the near future, Detroit is nothing more than a wretched hive of scum and villainy that would put Mos Eisley to shame. The local cops try their best to keep the streets sane, but are outnumbered, outgunned, and even worse, the criminals have blown up every donut stand within a 10 mile radius. Things are looking seriously bad for the boys in blue.

Enter mega-corporation OCP. OCP have been trying to market an urban pacification robot to take over from the police… however, their recent results have been less than successful, including a particularly grizzly malfunction of their most up-to-date unit, ED209, which leaves an OCP executive with more holes in him than the plot of American Psycho 2. Desperate to get back in the public’s good books, OCP sees a unique opportunity when veteran cop Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is viciously blown to little bits by local ganglord and all round bad egg Clarence Boddicker.

Taking what’s left of Murphy, OCP fuses his remaining bits and pieces together with their latest machine technology to create RoboCop, the ultimate in heavy metal justice. Robo, together with former partner Lewis, then go on a clean-up-the-city spree that ultimately brings RoboCop back into conflict with Boddicker and his gang of scoundrels.

RoboCop is cool in so many ways its hard to count them all. RoboCop’s gun is cool; his holster built into his leg is cool; his magical targeting device that lets him bounce bullets around like a powerball while dispatching any nearby criminal elements is very cool. He can see through walls; he can punch through walls. And he’s got a huge nasty spike that pops out of his fists for good measure as well. But mainly as a teen I loved him for his ability to walk into a warehouse full of armed men and dispatch them all in a haze of gunfire and explosions that would make a Fourth of July fireworks display slink away in shame.

Despite the films utterly blatant pure action cheese, it’s also very cynical and subversive at times, something that it’s hard to appreciate when you’re twelve, but means when you go back to it as a young adult, it still holds your attention. The commercials for the products of the near future are darkly hilarious; and Clarence and his band of nogoodniks are excellently portrayed and well-fleshed out villains, which in my opinion, makes the confrontations between them and old Domehead far more meaningful than a simple “here is the big bad guy, lets blow him away” kind of thing. By the end of the film, if you don’t REALLY want to see Clarence get what’s coming to him, you’ve just got no soul, and you get no cookies round at my house.

It is kind of dated, I’ll admit — but for a film made in 1987, there aren’t too many effects shots that will have you cringing in your seat. The acting is kind of hammy in places, and there’s really no deeper meaning to it than “good is good, bad isn’t good”. But sometimes you don’t look for deeper meanings; sometimes all you want to see is a man in a metal suit blowing away everyone around him with a really cool looking pistol. And if that’s what you want, RoboCop will be right up your dark and criminal infested alley.

Guns don't kill people. This robot does, however.
Guns don’t kill people.
This robot does, however.


  • Stephanie Zimbalist was originally cast in RoboCop, but had to give up the part when called back to film more episodes of NBC series, Remington Steele.
  • Two scenes storyboarded, but never filmed were: a scene where RoboCop visits his grave, and a long car chase which was an alternate scene that got them to the old steel mill (place Murphy died). The car chase was after Robo removed his helmet, and had Robo and Lewis break up a riot, followed by a shootout with Joe and Emil (with their military guns seen at the film’s end). Eventually, they retreated to their cars where there was a car chase to the old steel mill.
  • The costume was so hot and heavy that Peter Weller was losing three pounds a day from water loss. Eventually, an air conditioner was installed in the costume.
  • ED-209’s voice is that of producer Jon Davison. ED-209’s body was based on the design of a Bell helicopter and the overall appearance is reminiscent of a line of toys named Robotech which were based on an 1980s animated cartoon series.
  • RoboCop’s gun was actually a modified Beretta M93R: The barrel was extended and modified to resemble a casket. The weapon has three settings: single shot, three-round-burst (which was used in the film), and full-automatic.
  • Edward Neumeier came up with the idea for RoboCop after passing by the set of Blade Runner.
  • During the scene in the convenience store, the stickup man selects an “Iron-Man” comic book — an inspiration for the movie.
  • The police cars were modified Ford Tauruses. One of the main competitors of the Tuarus at the time was the Pontiac 6000. The car the villains use is the 6000 SUX, a not-so-subtle jab at the Pontiac 6000.
  • RoboCop’s first Directive, “Serve the Public Trust”, was inspired by a fortune cookie.
  • The hostage scene where a former city council member holds the mayor and his staff hostage was based on a real-life crisis where former San Francisco supervisor Dan White wanted his old job back.
  • In the attempted rape scene, writer Edward Neumeier originally had RoboCop shoot past the victim’s cheek, hitting and killing the rapist. While getting ready to shoot the scene as scripted, Verhoeven notice how Donna Keegan’s (playing the rape victim) legs were spread apart, giving him the idea to have RoboCop shoot between her legs and shoot the rapist in the genitals. Neumeier loved the idea and that was how the scene was shot.
  • Rutger Hauer was up for the role of Robocop.
  • During the final shootout at the foundry, when Ann Lewis fires the Cobra Assault Cannon, the muzzle flash knocks the lens-hood off of the camera
  • Do you think the OCP scientists could have come up with a less dangerous method of computer interface for ‘Cop than a huge metal spike?
  • Magnetic palms mean you never lose your car keys.
  • The importance of not crashing into toxic waste.
  • The future has the worlds coolest car alarms and board games.
  • The computer that Robocop looks up criminal records on is actually a Northern Telecom telephone switch.
  • The point-of-view shots from Robocop include references to MS-DOS.
  • The entrance to the OCP building in the movie is actually the front entrance of Dallas City Hall with extensive matte work above to make the building appear to be a giant skyscraper.
  • The “Cobra Assault Cannons” are working Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifles with some plastic molding added to the frame.
  • The ED-209 growls like a jaguar and squeals like a pig.
  • The sound of Bob Morton’s doorbell is the same as the one in the writer’s house in A Clockwork Orange.
  • The Hubcap flying off the car during the chase scene near the end of the movie was accidental. [thanks Robert H.]
  • At the dance club where Robocop arrested Leon Nash, the scene immediately after Leon kicks Robocop in his … Robohood, the wacko going crazy looking at the camera is director Paul Verhoeven [thanks Robert H.]

Groovy Quotes

Robocop: Dead or alive, you’re coming with me!

Robocop: Excuse me, I have to go. Somewhere there is a crime happening.

Robocop: I’m not arresting you anymore.

Clarence Boddicker: Bitches leave!

Emil: I remember you! We killed you!

Reporter: Robo, excuse me, Robo, any special message for all the kids watching at home?
RoboCop: Stay out of trouble.

Sgt. Reed: Your client’s a scumbag, you’re a scumbag, and scumbags see the judge on Monday morning. Now get out of my office, and take laughing boy with you!

Bob Morton: What are your Prime Directives?
RoboCop: Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, uphold the law.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • RoboCop 2
  • Blade Runner
  • Predator 2

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