Yikes! Further confessions of a film critic. After the public embarrassment I endured when I got my Porky’s the wrong way around, it now seems that I don’t know my Robocops. On initial viewing, I saw 2 as a big step down and 3 as even worse, but a retrospective view suggests that the third instalment has more to offer than I previously though. Robocop 3 is generally seen as inferior product for several reasons; the lack of a big star (Peter Weller quit for Robert Burke to take over) a director (Fred Dekker) who never made a studio film again, and a less restrictive certificate to help appeal to family audiences. While Robocop 3 suffers from all three complaints, it’s also got a few surprises in its locker…
How about Jeff Carlin from Curb Your Enthusiasm as a donut salesman? Robocop chasing down suspects in a garish pink pimpmobile festooned with Christmas lights? (like the first film, this IS a Christmas movie) Bradley Whitford from the West Wing as an OCP executive? Allusions to weird motel room sex with German shepherds? Now we really are talking. Sure, as with the second film, we get to see Robocop doing un-heroic things we don’t really need to see, like taking thermo-imaging pictures of rats and falling face first into a sewer, but Frank Miller’s script actually feels more like a modern reboot in that it seems to pretend that the second film didn’t happen, and focuses on legacy characters (Yes, ED-209, but also returns for cop Robert DoQui and OCP exec Felton Perry) and also addressing upgrade issues not previously resolved; Robocop can fly around now thanks to a specially designed jet-pack. What’s not to like about that?
So somehow Robocop/Murphy is back working for OCP, and back on the Detroit beat with Lewis (Nancy Allen), but he’s also something of a hero to the homeless; one little girl has dolls of Robocop and Ed-209 to play with, so at least OCP have got their marketing sorted. Decanting innocent people from their homes to make way for redevelopment means that ordinary people see OCP as ‘Oppressive Capitalist Pigs) and the company push the ‘line between big business and war’ even further when they merge with the Japanese Kanemitsu Corporation, who set their own assassin on Robocop, a ninja who can morph his own face. After Lewis is killed by Paul McDaggett (John Castle) a British mercenary cleansing Detroit with his military team of Urban Rehabilitators, Robocop temls up with CCH Pounder and a group of splatter-punk rebels who hide out in a church with hammocks, flutes and lots of kids, captured in an extensive Crane shot that seems designed to mimic the Atlanta aftermath from Gone with The Wind.
For Robocop to tell Lewis to “Call me Murphy’ seems strange given that she’s literally the only person who always does call him Murphy, but strangeness abounds here. Why would OPC worry about having their loans recalled? Why is Robocop blowing two men through a glass window with his gun considered an appropriate punishment for vague sexual harassment? ‘Allow me, scum!’ is Robocop’s typical rejoinder; if this movie is for kids, then I’d be interested to meet the kid who could dig this. Filmed in 1991, and released in 1993 due to the Orion studio’s bankruptcy, Robocop 3 is, like its titular character, glitch-ing all over the place and malfunctioning like crazy, but the random quality makes it a hoot in 2023. It all builds to the most underwhelming fight in cinema history as Robocop squares off against two assassins who collide jumping over him causing their heads to fall off; it has to be seen to be believed, much like Robocop 3 itself. As the punks say in their futuristic argot; ‘Clock it, Jack. Megazone invasion!’ To which the only correct answer can only be ‘Pop a tranq, hypo-head. Splatterville’s ours!’