R1 R2 R3

By: Mike Sutton

I like Fred Dekker’s earlier films - Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad – and any film which features the great Rip Torn can never be completely devoid of merit. The presence on the credits of Basil Poledouris as composer is also a step in the right direction. But otherwise,Robocop 3 is just a misbegotten disaster from start to finish, the kind of movie which makes you slap yourself in case you’re having a bad dream.

The film takes place sometime after the first sequel. OCP has been taken over by the Japanese who have rushed through a plan to build Delta City, the metropolitan steel idyll mooted in the first film. This involves kicking Detroit’s citizens out of their homes and has inevitably led to a backlash and the formation of a revolutionary movement. Into the middle of this civil strife comes Robocop (now played by Robert John Burke) – still accompanied by Lewis – and he has to decide whether to side with the corporate hoodlums and their private army, or the downtrodden people. Given that this film has a PG-13 rating and begins with a supposedly cute kid reprogramming ED-209 with her laptop, which side do you think he takes ?

There are many worse films than Robocop 3, at least on a formal level, but I can’t think of many which were so clearly doomed at conception. What appears to have happened is this. Robocop 2, which was a lot more expensive than the first movie, wasn’t nearly as big a hit as was expected and Orion had kittens. Plans for a follow-up were involved in various corporate problems and the eventual result was a typical compromise. On the one hand, we have a potentially impressive clash between Robocop and the might of a large mercenary army. On the other hand, we have some kind of god-awful kiddie film in which Robocop turns out to be all nice and cuddly and helps the poor homeless people to win out over the nasty men from OCP. Put the two together and you have a film which is the very definition of bland. I know I’ve laid into the first sequel for its constant violence but some of that cruelty might have livened up this movie which is so eager not to offend anyone that it doesn’t interest anyone either.

I don’t necessarily blame Fred Dekker for this calamity. His direction is never worse than competent and sometimes he brings across some arresting images. The night-time location photography is generally excellent as well. Frank Miller, who came up with both story and screenplay, deserves a larger share of the responsibility. But the real villain seems to be Patrick Crowley, the producer, who is quoted as saying, “What caught the public’s imagination, right from the start, was the man within the machine... Robocop’s change of heart drives the story forward...” Quite apart from the fact that the man within the machine was only one element of a very clever, multi-layered original film, the idea of Robocop having a “change of heart “ brings us into touchy-feely, Robin Williams, Bicentennial Man shite-fest territory. When you try to combine this with a plot that desperately incorporates airborne robots and Ninjas, you haven’t a hope in hell of producing anything coherent.

The razor-sharp social satire of the first film, which still made an occasional appearance in the sequel, is diluted here into a kind of soggy liberalism where capitalism is automatically associated with bad and multi-racial couples with cute kids are always very much on the side of the angels. Like all the best satirical action movies, from The Dirty Dozen to Dirty Harry, Verhoeven’s original film can be read as either left-wing criticism of fascism or fascist propaganda – and is intentionally made that way. Robocop 3 has about as much satire or social relevance as an average episode of “Little House On The Prairie”. I suggest using this third disc in the trilogy set as an attractive hanging decoration.