Picks and Pans Review: Robocop

updated 07/27/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/27/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

If things are seeming tough all over, take a look at the corpse-covered sidewalks of Robocop. The Untouchables notwithstanding, these are the meanest movie streets in years—and the most exciting. In this futuristic thriller, a conglomerate is running the Detroit police department, executives are more calculating than hitmen and there's always blood on the booty. Into the mayhem of Motown steps Robocop, an experimental law-enforcement machine grafted onto the frame of a murdered cop. In an unstable society, Robocop is an unstable hybrid—a nuts-and-bolts automaton who remembers his flesh-and-blood past. As sick as it is slick, this movie could have been a Bernhard Goetz remake of A Clockwork Orange, but it mitigates bleak violence with an astringent black humor. When a colleague is killed by a security robot gone amok, one executive says, "That's life in the big city." Like its cinematic relative The Terminator, this movie thrills an audience while drill-punching it into submission. Making his American movie debut, Dutch director Paul (Soldier of Orange) Verhoeven proves a caustic commentator on the ironies of urban life. Robocop provides the kind of charge seldom seen in this genre of moviemaking—the excitement of seeing an original vision that is both sustained and entertaining. The fiendish and inventive script by newcomer Edward Neumeier and rock-video director Michael Miner doesn't peddle the usual vigilante jingoism or chases; instead, it booby-traps every expectation. In the title role, Peter Weller conveys a human under the hardware, but this isn't an actor's showcase. Verhoeven relies on assistance from Jost Vacano's restless cinematography and Basil Poledouris' thunderclap score. Robocop is a strangely perverse pleasure. Who would expect such a rattletrap concoction to emerge as this summer's sleeper? (R)

From Our Partners