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‘RoboCop 3’ (PG-13)

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 05, 1993

After its producer, Orion, flirted with bankruptcy for two years, "RoboCop 3" has been paroled rather than released. How else to explain the good behavior that has earned it a PG-13, where its predecessors were R's?

Whatever the rating, they could have named this one "RoboFlop." Not that it would matter.

"RC3" is clearly aimed at the huge teen audience that flexes its muscle in the video market. The "RC2" experience -- weak box office and hostile reviews from RoboFans who considered it both too violent and not funny enough -- did not stop that uninspired film from becoming a hit on video, as well as in theaters overseas. "RC3" seems aimed directly at those markets, with theaters here merely a pit stop.

This version is the creation of director Fred Dekker ("Monster Squad" and several "Tales From the Crypt"), with Robert John Burke wearing the shield and body armor of the title character. Auteur Paul Verhoeven left after marking the original film with his dark and violent vision (a laser disc reinstating ultra-violent scenes cut by the ratings board is about to be released).

Dekker wrote the script with "RC2's" Frank Miller, the graphic novelist who is well suited to the series' sardonic world view. "RC3" is less about RoboCop's inherently dramatic Am-I-a-man-or-machine? conflict than about class warfare between the homeless citizens of Old Detroit and those creepy Capitalists R Us, Omni Consumer Products.

OCP covets the neighborhood, envisioning a real estate gold mine. Its new Japanese owner, Kanemitsu, doesn't have much patience, and pushes for mass evictions. After a middling engagement with some typically post-apocalyctic Splatterpunks and a standoff with OCP's thugs, RoboCop decides he's not down with OCP and joins the rebels.

RoboCop may go underground but he's hardly able to go undercover. Rob Bottin upgrades his heavy-footed mechanized lawman with new gadgets like the Auto-9 combination machine gun, flame-thrower and rocket launcher and a pack that turns him into RoboRocketeer. Phil Tippett also reactivates the ED-209 Crime Enforcement Droid for one chipper scene. But too much of "RC3" is standard car chases, pyrotechnics and shootouts. And while there is still a fair amount of violence, it is more cartoonish than graphic.

Dekker and Miller toss in some new characters: Nikko (Remy Ryan), a computer-wiz little girl who saves several days; comrade Bertha (CCH Pounder), leader of the homeless proles; Dr. Lazarus (Jill Hennessy), who retrofits our hero for the left, and Otomo (Bruce Locke), a droid ninja assassin whose sword cuts through steel (he should have been named Ginzu). But folks will come mostly for RoboCop, who's left with his trademark humor consisting mostly of old-fashioned police platitudes, earnestly delivered.

As for the conflict, it's hardly riveting and often it's downright silly. The sets and effects betray their downsized budget. And the Japanese bashing is less artful than in "Rising Sun," though just as obnoxious.

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