Though the story is tired, most of ROBOCOP 3's action sequences and special effects are imaginative and effective, and the gruesomeness of the first two films has been toned down in a commercially wise attempt to make it more accessible to the younger audiences who love Robocop.
In the degenerate future, on the mean streets of Detroit, cyborg cop Murphy (Robert John Burke), better known as Robocop, is the best and last hope of law enforcement. Haunted by fragmentary memories of the man he once was and ruthlessly manipulated by the vicious executives who run Omni Consumer Products, the corporate conglomerate that hopes to make Detroit over along more profitable lines, Murphy is faced with a dilemma. OCP, now owned by a Japanese conglomerate headed by tycoon Kanemitsu (Mako), is illegally evicting residents of Detroit's run down, working class Cadillac City neighborhood, so that Delta City, a glittering metropolis of the future, can be built in its place. Robocop is meant to help clear them away, but after his longtime partner (Nancy Allen) is killed, he violates his programming--which requires him to obey all orders from his superiors and joins the Homeless Underground, led by charismatic Bertha (CCH Pounder); her troops include adorable computer-hacking youngster Nikko (Remy Ryan), who was separated from her family when the army evicted the populace of Cadillac City.
OCP's troops wage full-scale war on the homeless resisters, and damage Robocop, apparently beyond repair. But he's remade once again, this time by Dr. Marie Lazarus (Jill Hennessy), an OCP employee who realizes she can't just follow orders anymore. He then takes on the Detroit police and OCP's secret weapon, a sleek, athletic, ninja cyborg who makes RoboCop look like a rusted heap of tin, and emerges victorious.
The original ROBOCOP was a dark action film set in a disturbing urban future, distinguished by a cynical script, Paul Verhoeven's brutal direction and Peter Weller's surprisingly affecting performance as the machine who remembers that he was once a man. Written by cutting-edge comic book star
Frank Miller and directed by Fred Dekker (NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, THE MONSTER SQUAD), ROBOCOP 3 is a far lighter affair, with the emphasis on spectacular but relatively bloodless action. On those terms, it's fairly successful.
Sharp-jawed Robert Burke, best known for his roles in Hal Hartley films, gamely dons RoboCop drag and manages to retain the character's weary dignity, even when he's forced to don a flying backpack (a la THE ROCKETEER) and zoom over the heads of the incredulous villains. The action sequences are
well staged and imaginative, and the battle between Robocop and Roboninja, takes some surprising turns--the best is the revelation that there are three identical opponents.
That said, the movie seems stuck betwixt and between: it dishes up monstrous splatterpunks (reminiscent of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK), ruthless corporate fiends (no character in RISING SUN, denounced for its Japan bashing, can compare to the evil Kanemitsu or the ninja cyborg, who makes literal the idea of the Japanese being "like robots"), killer cops and the scary Roboninja, but pulls its punches whenever things seem to be getting too tough. And though it was meant to appeal to younger ROBOCOP fans, the opening sequence is every child's nightmare: little Nikko is in her own bed, her daddy assuring her that things are fine, when a wrecking ball crashes through the wall and the family has to take to the streets, which are filled with running, screaming families. In the melee, Nikko is separated from her parents (who, we later learn, are killed) and left to wander the nighttime streets alone. That's the true stuff of children's nightmares. (Violence, adult situations.)
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