Robocop. After kicking off in style in Paul Verhoeven’s classy and violent
1987 Robocop outing, he had to endure a
nasty nihilistic sequel in 1990 (Robocop 2)
before the money bosses decided that he would have to sell kiddies toys
with the juvenile and pathetic Robocop 3 in
1993. Don’t even mention the TV series that built on the sad tradition of
Then in 2000, after
everyone has had enough of the sanitized for kiddies market Robocop, a
Canadian outfit acquired the rights to the character. They made a
mini-series for TV (specifically the Sci-Fi channel), promising to bring
the character back to its roots as a bad-ass ass-kicking sort of
Judge Dredd crossed with a Swiss army knife on
Did they succeed?
Well, sort of.
It is ten years
after the events of the first Robocop movie. Robocop’s home town of
Delta City (which is owned by the omniscient OCP Corporation) is the
safest city in America thanks to Robocop’s one-track minded fascist law
enforcement tactics. In fact, Robocop is in danger of finding himself
redundant, as the police are no longer equipped with any firearms but have
to make do with pepper spray and tazers!
By the way, before
you start thinking this is as ridiculous as the movie makes it out to be,
remember that the average street cop or celebrated “bobbie” in the UK
carries only a truncheon. Compare this to South Africa where policemen are
afraid to venture out onto their beats without a bullet-proof jacket and a
fully automatic assault rifle . . .
Delta City soon takes on a South African quality as a mysterious vigilante
known only as Bone Machine starts knocking off criminals. Bone Machine is
equipped with the latest in “urban pacification” equipment and a human
equivalent of Robocop himself. There is more to Bone Machine than meets
the eye though: he seems to be part of a group of Young Turks wanting to
overthrow the older management of the OCP Corporation – by any means
necessary . . .
Soon, Robocop is
(illegally) programmed to kill off an old colleague of his who has proven
to be a thorn in the flesh of said conspirators. Robocop may not follow
Asimov’s Laws of Robotics (see Bicentennial Man,
or rather don’t!), but killing his friend off is definitely in violation
of his programming. Will he kill his old friend?
Before you think
you have it all sorted out, Robocop: Dark Justice has some
surprises in store. A full-length movie cobbled together by the first few
episodes of the Robocop TV Prime Directives mini-series; it is
followed by another movie titled Robocop: Meltdown. It all ends
rather abruptly, with issues that will no doubt be resolved in the sequel.
THE DISC: A
bare bones affair (groan!), the DVD doesn’t feature any special features
beyond the usual scene access and the like. Wide screen image transfer is
decent and it is not presented full screen, as it was no doubt broadcast
on TV. There is a decent Dolby Stereo Surround soundtrack.
IT? While Dark Justice is an
improvement on the older TV series and the lousy Robocop 3
(it is not intended for kids - parents beware!), it
unfortunately suffers badly from its made-for-TV look and very low budget.
Recently I wrote of Them! that that 1950s movie
is fine as long as long as they do not show its stupid-looking giant
mutant ants. Dark Justice is also okay – except for the scenes with
the very cheesy-looking Bone Machine villain, which looks like
He-Man and the Masters
of the Universe’s Skeletor decked out with
oversized hubcaps. That the actor playing Bone Machine completely overacts
does not help at all!
effects (in the future our computer screens will have
ATM-like displays, man!) aside, I found that
that Dark Justice was of enough interest to keep me watching. It
restores some of the Robocop character’s integrity (is he one existential
dude, man!) and the story is good enough to make
one want to check out the sequel to see how things turn out. So
check this space again!
A pity the entire TV series isn’t presented in its entirety and one has to
check out the Robocop: Meltdown DVD to see how the story is
resolved. Worth a rental if you’re the type who can look beyond lousy
special effects – just make sure you rent both movies!