You wouldn’t think that the adventures of Officer Alex Murphy 2.0 would be so hard to sequelize. The ultra-violent original told the story how the hapless street cop takes an extended leave of absence after being literally shot to pieces by a rabid gang of thugs and returns as a virtually unstoppable cyborg law enforcer after being handed over to massive conglomerate OCP. The hugely broad, very comic booky movie seemed tailor made for a franchise and when news broke that seminal writer Frank Miller (Sin City, The Dark Knight Returns) was penning the script – Miller has a unsettling knack for heroic yet brutally facist characters – expectations were high but alas, it was not to be as script tampering and a complete misunderstanding of the delicate satire that Paul Verhoven wove through the first produced a heavily flawed action movie that’s high on action but low on any kind of subtlety whatsoever.
Thanks to further complications caused by OCP privatising the Detriot PD, many officers have elected to strike and the city streets have become a war zone with crooks going as far to rob other crooks in a frenzy of lawlessness. Thankfully Robocop is still on the case, popping up to shrug off bullets of multiple calibre and blow fist sized holes in any wrongdoers dumb enough to aim a gun at him. His main target is Cain (a tripped out Tom Noonan), a hippy/cult leader/drug baron with a messiah complex who with his gang (complete with child member who has a stereo that turns into an assault rifle) has the city of Old Detriot hooked on his new designer drug, Nuke and an unfortunate clash between the two leaves Murphy disembodied and stripped for parts. Instead of simply rebuilding him, however, OCP and it’s delusional CEO have him fixed up and put back on the streets but with so many new politically correct directives (cooked up by insipid focus groups) it leaves him muddled and unable to function. Getting his free will back from a causual high five with a couple of thousand volts of electricity, Robocop rallys the striking police force to aid him in finally taking Cain down but there’s a hugely predictable twist on the horizon as Cain is reborn thanks to the corrupt (and seriously fucking ignorant) people in charge of the Robocop 2 project as a 15 foot tall, drug addicted, multiple-limbed, swiss army knife of death – the fucker even has blades for toes for Christ’s sake – and goes utterly bugshit when Murphy crashes his big unveiling.
Can Robocop, in an act of impressive meta-lunacy, take down his own sequel before too many onlookers are mercilessly cut down in the crossfire? Not fucking likely considering the body count for this movie is bloody immense…
To give Robocop 2 it’s due, despite it’s messy script, misfiring humour and a lack of any sort of restraint in any aspect of it’s construction, it’s fairly engrossing in an adolescent, bang-bang-you’re-dead sort of way. The action scenes are huge in scale and impressively mounted by Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner who allows his on-screen actors to dish out (and absorb) more firepower than the Iraq War and even the most potentially silly set pieces are vividly realised with a scene with Robocop clinging onto a van as it ploughs through everything it sees scoring highly (check out the bar tender when it smashes through a bar and tell me he didn’t cut his stunt a bit too fine). The film also seems to be the triumphant last gasp of stop motion animation making a sizable appearance in a live action blockbuster movie as the extended final battle – which takes our two mechanized combatants from a conference room, up a lift shaft, off the side of a building, into an underground car park and eventually onto the city streets – is nothing short of remarkable in the burgeoning days of CGI (Kershner and stop motion maestro Phil Tippett previously worked together bringing the Battle Of Hoth sequence to life).
However, whenever tiny maneuverable dolls and swarms of indiscriminate bullets aren’t given any screen time, the film flags. Hard. The scenes where Murphy is reprogrammed and wanders from crime to crime spouting new age nonsense is unfunny, agony to sit through and the film ups and dies on it’s arse for what seems an eternity. Similarly, Verhoven’s deceptively nuanced tone for the satire the original is known for is way out of whack, lurching into unsubtle, ghoulish comedy when a lighter touch was essential. Yamaha brand transplant hearts and a family board game called Nuke ‘Em treads that fine line well, starting the film with a commercial for a car security system which fatally electrocutes the thief doesn’t and the film never elevates more than an incredibly cruel, live action cartoon for male adults (Nancy Allen’s Officer Lewis virtually has nothing to do and the pesky subplot of Murphy’s family is discarded early in the day).
Not completely irredeemable by any rate but still light years behind it’s peerless predecessor, Robocop 2 is an effective, if vapid, sci-fi shooter that has it fair share of moments but ultimately ends up as the worlds most violent toy advert.