Last week, my partner thought it would be a hilarious prank to sit me down in front of the TV and make me watch RoboCop. I hate violent movies, I hate macho characters, and I’m super not into guns.
So why did I love RoboCop, much to my partner’s (and my own) shock?
I think it might be because the movie is to cop-vengeance movies what Showgirls is to showbiz pictures. Both movies are directed by Paul Verhoeven, and both are so ludicrous and extreme that it’s impossible to look away. And there’s a perfect internal logic to the movie: It’s crafted like a Swiss watch, with every piece paying off exactly as it should. Yeah, sure, all of those pieces and payoffs are stupid, but that doesn’t make them any less satisfying when they all fit together.
In trying to understand my unlikely love for the film, I’ve taken some notes of the whole affair.
00:50 – The film starts with a “media break” and some exposition from reporters. It’s the exactly same framing device that the director used a decade later in Starship Troopers, one of my least favorite films. Unlike RoboCop, that movie a meandering mess — plot points connect, but they take way too long, with way too many side-stories off into nowhere.
2:15 – This movie’s vision for future-Detroit, with private police failing to serve the citizens, is oddly accurate.
4:15 – A co-ed shower scene with naked butts! Another weird similarity with Starship Troopers.
8:00 – A bunch of old white guys are sitting around a table in a board room. I guess we know who the villains are now.
14:00 – The hero cop is just casually twirling his firearm around on his finger. This is ludicrously stupid — can you imagine if you saw a real police officer doing this?
14:30 – The main character’s accent seems to be “chewing marbles.”
22:10 – Oh my God they just shot a guy’s hand off. I’m not sure why I’m surprised, this movie’s violence is ridiculously graphic. I should hate it — in fact, I had to look away at the hand-shooting — but I think I admire just how far they’re willing to go.
22:55 – This guy has probably been shot 30 or so times at point blank range with shotguns, and he’s still hollering. This is a fantasy movie.
24:00 – Haha, now they’re rushing the 30-gunshot point-blank victim to the hospital on a gurney. You guys, I’m pretty sure he is super-dead.
30:00 – RoboCop is revealed! His footsteps sound like staplers that have been placed too close to the mic.
32:00 – We’re in a shooting range, and the camera lingers on the protruding gun barrels like they’re a row of penises. Then everyone becomes transfixed by RoboCop’s penis, I mean his gun. This is a movie that makes fun of masculinity so well you could easily think it’s celebrating masculinity.
35:00 – RoboCop talks like a person of color making fun of how white people talk.
41:45 – This movie is doing everything it can to make “I’d buy that for a dollar” a real catchphrase, not just a one-off. People are saying it to each other like it’s an actual saying. I love the depths of the world-building going on here.
1:03:00 – The bad guy just pulled an amazing power-move: he dipped two fingers in another man’s glass of wine, then raised them to his nose and sniffed. The other man then one-upped him with an even wilder power move: he drank the wine. This is insane.
1:04:00 – RoboCop’s mouth is fully exposed, and he gets shot SO MUCH. Why don’t the bullets ever hit his mouth?
1:13:00 – The bad robot, it has just been revealed, cannot use stairs. It tried, then fell down them and started squealing like a pig. I feel bad for it now.
1:33:00 – We’re at the climax now, and everyone is bleeding like 30 gallons of blood. People die in this movie like they dance in Showgirls.
1:37:00 – In the final moments of the movie, someone asks RoboCop his name. “Murphy,” he says, and then the screen cuts to the word “ROBOCOP” in giant letters, as if the movie is correcting him. It gave me one last unexpected laugh in a movie full of unexpected laughs.
So why do I love RoboCop so much? Because it’s as campy as any film I’ve ever seen, but without glitter and glitz and catty remarks. It’s camp but accessible for straight people, and I’m in awe of Paul Verhoeven for pulling off such a remarkable achievement.