Robocop: Prime Directives (Part I: Dark Justice)

Producer: Julian Grant
Julian Grant
Page Fletcher, Maurice Dean Wint, Geraint Wyn Davies
Lions Gate, Trimark
Approx. Running Time:
95 minutes
Not Rated
Aspect Ratio:
1 , NTSC
Single Layer (DVD5)
Dolby Stereo Surround



Poor 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 Robocop 3!

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 steroids.

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 . . .

However, 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.

WORTH 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!

Cheap special 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!

RECOMMENDATION: 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!



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