'RoboCop' Movie Review - Capitalism's Perfect Police
One of the terrifying menaces of capitalism is the privatization of security. When an economic system has the accumulation of capital as its priority and not social development, is easy to relativize human rights for a positive financial balance. This is RoboCop’s mainframe.
RoboCop shows us our protagonist Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), an honest policeman who is transferred to a new precinct that has suffered many casualties lately as a direct result of bad funding and a high crime rate. There, he meets Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) with whom he quickly develops a unique camaraderie. Things aren't looking good: on the verge of an economic collapse, the Detroit Police Department is about to enter an indefinite strike.
Although both characters are engaging and charismatic, the reality is that the real protagonist of this story is a private corporation. Omni Consumer Products (OCP), through its executives, is the one deciding the destiny of everyone involved. Citizens, cops, criminals, they are all just mere tokens in their plan to develop Delta City, a new gentrified urban complex that will replace Detroit's ugly parts with a gentrified city-state free of federal laws. In other words, OCP's plan, facing a Detroit at the point of economic collapse, is to annihilate the poor and build over their ashes—a new place that brings new people.
To be able to have an absolute independence from the government, the OCP has signed a deal with the Mayor, committing in finding a definitive solution to the escalation of violence. Being both payer and payee, the OCP has now full control of the Detroit Police Department.
And of course, what is the solution of a private corporation to a social problem? Dealing with humans as little as possible. The machines don't complain, don't go on strike nor demand better working conditions. That's why the OCP's response is the ED-209 droid unit, a massive, distant, lethal law-enforcing machine.
When does RoboCop enter the picture then? When an experiment with a droid ED-209 unit culminates with a calibration error and the bloody death of one of the executives, it's too evident that the project is far from being ready. It's clear that OCP was willing to continue betting on these units and take some economic losses until Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) suggests the thrifty idea of RoboCop, a cyborg created from fallen cops in combat.
So in this nightmare, RoboCop is simply a strategic populist measure. A cyborg with a human face that's not only easier and cheaper to assemble but will make the transition between humans and their eventual inorganic replacement much simpler.
After being shotgunned, Alex Murphy is the chosen corpse to test the RoboCop initiative. Murphy is stripped down of his memories and personality, and most of his body is replaced with cybernetics. Believing he's dead, his family moves to another city. Coherent with OCP's priorities, the RoboCop project exploits workers (in this case police officers) long after their death. RoboCop is the ideal symbol of the perfect police officer.
RoboCop is programmed to follow three directives: "Serve the public trust, Protect the innocent, and Uphold the law.” A fourth secret directive prohibits RoboCop from attacking any OCP executive. Of course, through the movie, RoboCop is gaining consciousness about his past life and the truth about his nature.
What's Your Rating For RoboCop 1987
Verhoeven's satire is constantly exquisite through the end. The main villain, executive Dick Jones (Ronny Cox), knowing that he has corporate immunity from the fourth guideline and that RoboCop cannot harm him, decides to take the company's president hostage when his macabre plans are revealed to the board. His impunity is guaranteed.
The final irony? Dick Jones' employer/hostage shouts "Dick, you're fired!”. That's it. RoboCop no longer has the fourth directive as an obstacle and immediately annihilates Jones in a gory fashion. Jones becomes just another victim of capital. Another poor bastard intoxicated with power and the illusion of ostentatious life. The minute he became a threat to the company, he was excluded and literally thrown out of the window like a piece of trash.
And this is how RoboCop ends. The villain is only clearly antagonized when he becomes a threat to the private corporation. Meanwhile, Detroit will continue with its problems, and RoboCop is satisfied with continuing enforcing the law according to OCP, as long as he gets to call himself Murphy.
RoboCop deserves its second place on my cyborg movies list.
Release Year: 1987
Director(s): Paul Verhoeven
Actors: Peter Weller, Kurtwood Smith, Nancy Allen, Ronny Cox a.o.