DETROIT's in deep trouble in "RoboCop." It's going to be rebuilt into an ugly futuristic city and, to add Reaganomics to rampant crime, Security Concepts Inc. now runs the police force. But still the cops' bodies are piling up.
As created by director Paul ("The Fourth Man") Verhoeven and screenwriters Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner, "RoboCop" is one weird and entertaining hybrid of camp and sci-fi shoot-'em-up. Newscasters tell you, in chatty "Entertainment Tonight" patter, that the Mexicans are invading, the South African government has the Bomb and an SDI satellite has inadvertently fired at the San Fernando Valley -- killing two former presidents living there. From then on, the film grabs armfuls of "Terminator," "Repo Man," "Blade Runner" and "Frankenstein" (and a fistful of "Miami Vice") and runs.
Meet Detroit cop Murphy (Peter Weller), new partner to fierce Officer Lewis (Nancy Allen). He's good with a gun and high on public trust. But it doesn't save him from Clarence Botticker (Kurtwood Smith) and his ruthless gang who corner and execute him in a warehouse hideaway one day.
But all is not lost. OmniConsumer Products (Security Concepts' mother company) is in Phase II of its project to automate the police -- its first project, the robot ED 209, tended to machine-gun innocent people. And, holy Lazarus, Murphy has just the lukewarm body that ambitious SCI development director Morton (Miguel Ferrer) needs for his robot-in-progress. A little riveting here, some programming there, and Murphy becomes RoboCop -- a sort of law-enforcement Terminator with C3PO parts and a weapon that gives new meaning to the word "firearm." He reteams with Lewis, who's convinced there's still a little Murphy inside those circuits.
She's right. Murphy, to paraphrase Monty Python, is not dead yet. Seems some memories didn't get purged in the transformation. He vaguely remembers the wife and kid he left behind; and then there's his little beef with the low-lifes who left him in a bloody mess.
He tracks the bad guys down but it turns out they're in with Omni veep Jones (Ronny Cox), who's still sore about his rejected ED 209 project. Jones supplies the gang with cutting-edge weaponry that can deep-six your turbocruiser in one ka-pow. Before Murphy can say "God it's hot in here," he and Lewis are grappling with hi-tech flak, the murderous 209s (created by Phil Tippett, who designed the phenomenal giant sand-walkers of "The Empire Strikes Back"), the Detroit police force and some software in Murphy's hardware that forbids him to kill his makers. What's a cyborg to do?
You feel as if you're watching an old story disguised in sci-fi hardware -- and you are. Weller (Diane Keaton's handsome extramarital lover in "Shoot the Moon") is the tragic hero looking for redemption. His kid had "Shane"-like expectations for Dad to be just like the gunfighter in his favorite TV series. And, with this second chance, Murphy doesn't want to disappoint him.
ROBOCOP (R) --
At area theaters.
CAPTION:"RoboCop": Peter Weller is wired for crime prevention.