By the time Robocop’s third outing had clunked and clanged into the cinemas it had come quite apparent that the wheels had totally come off whatever franchise Hope’s this series once had. Eschewing the original’s brutal satire and the sequel’s inferior but savage slapstick, the third movie is watered down so much it’s amazing no one in the film drowned while reading the script.
Villainous conglomerate OCP has been bought out by the Japanese and is still desperate to get construction started on it’s long mooted project to rebuild the city of Old Detroit into the glistening spires of Delta City. However, in order to do so they’ve resorted to using a facist private firm – dubbed “Rehabs” – to forcefully remove innocent people from their homes using whatever force they deem fit.
Separated from her parents a small precocious child with a talent for computer hacking (think the girl from Jurassic Park but way more ineffectual) joins up with a group of doughy, recognisable character actors who form the local resistance and try to push back against the injustice and the sadistic leader of the Rehabs (you know he’s evil because he’s British and calls everyone “chum” ironically). Eventually Robocop gets involved and he and his partner Lewis (an increasingly bored looking Nancy Allen) have to pick a side in a battle that starts to get way out of control. Soon the Japanese corporation deploys a robot ninja to dispatch our mechanical hero (yep, you read that right) while an out and out war rages on the streets of Old Detroit.
There’s a scene early on in the film which perfectly encapsulates the experience of watching Robocop 3. As the freedom fighting misfits try to rob a police armoury they are halted by the imposing presence of an ED-209 – the fan favorite dreadnaught who so memorably used at it’s considerable firepower to hollow out a boardroom exec like a Halloween pumpkin. Before it can make good on it’s iconic promise to make use of excessive force in 20 seconds a little girl hacks into it, tells it to be loyal as a puppy and essentially makes it her bitch. As a metaphor for the movie in general it’s absurdly fitting as the whole tone of the series has been clumsily neutered in order to appeal to children.
Robocop 3 seems to live in a delusional world where it seems to be blissfully unaware it belongs to a movie series that once saw a guy melted by toxic waste who then bursts like a water balloon when struck by a car. Virtually everything about the movie is aimed directly at younger audience with the teeth grinding addition of a computer hacking child being the most obvious example of cow towing to all the nippers and ankle biters who only watched the originals for the violence in the first place.
Despite featuring such “I know that guy” actors as CCH Pounder, Daniel Von Bargen, Stephen Root and Bradley Whitman, all the performances are confusingly broad, like, children’s TV broad and when Nancy Allen’s returning Lewis expires purely because the script has no idea what to do with her, she looks way more relieved than shot. Replacement Peter Weller, Robert Burke gamely does what he can to fill out the vacated Robosuit but he’s bizarrely too robotic to convince as the cyborg lawman and is unable to sell such cartoonish concepts such as comendeering a pimp-mobile to give chase to an enemy.
It’s all such a shame as the director Fred Dekker, responsible for such fun cult classics like Night Of The Creeps and The Monster Squad is too hamstrung by the rating to fully cut loose and has to resort to such 12-year-old-boy-baiting tricks like robot ninjas or putting Robo into a jet pack that transforms him into a jerky stop-motion puppet to work around the tone.
In 1988 Paul Verhoven gave us a true original that is still yet to be even remotely equalled and thanks to repeated, misguided attempts by filmmakers that seem to be utterly incapable to understand or replicate the biting satire and nimble wit that has made the character and the world he inhabits so endearing and yet so horribly familiar.
I’d buy that for a dollar? Looks like they MADE it for a dollar…