It Came from 1990! Robocop 2: "Deuce Machina"!
1990-1999, It was the coined as the bookend of the 20th Century. Whereas the 80's ushered High concept formulas, the 90's was the beginning of “sequelitus": Frequent Sequels of popular film franchises. One of them was 1990's Robocop 2. Directed by Irwin Kershner of Empire Strikes Back and based on hugely popular 1987 Cyberpunk crime thriller, the "2" in Robocop 2 refers to the brand-new replacement Robocop as well as the 2nd installment of this series.
Continuing the events of the first film, Detroit is on the verge of filing for bankruptcy and crime has reached an all-time high and this works great in OCP's favor especially when they can seize assets on Detroit's foreclosure and push their redevelopment plan. OCP was contracted by the state of Detroit, to run police department and adhering to their usual unscrupulous policies, the Omni Consumer Products has cut the salaries and eliminated the pensions of outsourced Police officers. Thus, leaving the Police no other alternative, but to go back on strike.
These actions enable the huge uptick in Crime and is a perfect opportunity for Drug lord, terrorist, and self-proclaimed "messiah" Cain, to take advantage of the situation. In his delusions of godhood, Cain offers "paradise " by Injecting his designer narcotic, Nuke. That is until Alex Murphy now known as the Robocop infiltrates his Nuke manufacturing plant. There are two things that stood out during this scene, one, how the drug running minor Hob, triggered Murphy's prime directives to enable a flashback of his son and two, a clever ricochet shot via onboard computer trajectory.
Soon afterwards, there's that scene where Murphy is checking in on his former wife Ellen, which propelled her into filing a lawsuit against OCP for psychological trauma after losing her husband, only to see him "return".
Note: It's more than likely that this scene was lifted from Marvel's Astonishing Tales #27 comic where the antihero cyborg Deathlok, makes an unannounced visit to his wife and son, leading to unfortunate circumstances.
This has OCP scrambling for damage control with their lawyers giving Murphy a cease and desist order. I can feel the heartbreak when Murphy is forced to comply with their demands after he utters; "I am a ...machine...nothing more.." followed by rejecting Ellen. This no doubt had the most dramatic impact and a sad cathartic moment between Murphy and Ellen.
OCP is now considering a more "reliable" successor to the original Robocop with a newer advanced model to fight the rampant crime wave, while securing their foreclosure. And after a few lackluster demonstration results, that squandered 90 Million of OCP's financial assets, the Chairman of OCP is furious! How can the corporation make up for its losses? Well, in comes Dr. Juliette Faxx of the personality adjustment division, who suggests that deceased police officers are poor candidates for the program and instead, offers a controversial screening process that would be cost effective to the corporation.
This and Faxx's other "qualities, " wins over the Old Man. But what is the endgame for the unscrupulous Dr. Faxx?
What I really find fascinating about Robocop 2, is the unapologetic self-parody and social commentary involving the titular Cyborg. After getting torn to pieces by Cain's henchmen, Murphy is barely hanging on a thread especially when OCP's Lawyer threatens to sell him fir scrap, then has a change of heart when Dr Fixx comes up with this idea that would clean Robocop's image as this "violent persona".
Miller's cynicism shines through once again when taking aim toward the Nanny state and Focus groups mostly consisting of White Soccer Moms, PTA parents and Karens. Once a badass enforcer of Justice, is now reprogrammed into some kid friendly mascot! And it doesn't stop there either, I noticed how OCPs banners at the auditorium, resembles that of the Nazi sigil/flag. Has Frankie been trying to tell us something all along?
In keeping with the tradition of the first Robocop the commercial spoofs are well played beginning with a satirical commercial, Magnavolt which featured John Glover. My favorite goes to the OCP spot where a trader loses the account and blows his brains out with followed by a framed picture of what appears to be his 3-year-old daughter. Followed by Sunblock 5000, which I cannot say that the Sunscreen lotion spot is exaggerated, especially nowadays, when the ozone layer has been depleted.
As for the cast, it’s great to see Peter Weller reprise his role as the Cybernetic Supercop and to his credit, Weller performed his role as best as possible despite less favorable circumstances i.e. a butchered script and questionable direction. One minute he's stoic like Batman and Judge Dredd, the next,Weller gets comical after his character has been reprogrammed as this "Officer friendly" archetype. The robo armor has a few updates when it came to aesthetics. What was originally a metallic silver is more bluish with purple contrasts. It’s a nice improvement but I prefer the ol skool look.
Of course, you couldn't have Murphy without his partner and confidant, Anne Lewis.(Nancy Allen) Lewis' highlight was when she commandeered an APC to stop Cain's murderous rampage which felt a bit tokenized when she should have had more action scenes, which may explain why Allen was very disappointed in Robocop 2. We get to see more of Dan O'Herlihy’s “The Old Man” who is more cold-blooded sob than ever, yet weak enough to fall for a temptress, as in true power lies behind the throne. But you gotta laugh when O’Herlihy breaks character with “Gentleman, behave yourselves”!!
Felton Perry is also back as the Company's Yes Man, Donald Foster who often goes head to head with Dr. Fixx about her business decisions and speaking of whom, Actress Belinda Bauer was great as the siren Juliette Faxx who takes pride in her creation like Frankenstein's Monster to the extent of being this proud Mama while witnessing her evil "offspring" gunning down innocents with this huge Gatling cannon.Ironically, Bauer is now a real life Psychologist who is still practicing. Also, Gayln Gorg deserves an honorable mention for her being Cain's Nuke addicted Acolyte and lover Angie, who is dangerous when welding a powerful electric rifle, but easily falls prey to her addiction even if it means, choosing sides. Then there’s Leeza Gibbons of Entertainment Tonight returns as anchor woman who has more of an onscreen presence during the 3rd act.
Sadly, Noonan's Cain did not have enough character development after being resurrected as the new Robocop (Robocop 2) that looks like a mashup of ED 209, Arnim Zola and Max Headroom. The studio heads at Orion should have shown more of Tom Noonan instead of placing more emphasis on the big, bad stop motion menace, but I take solace with the sociopath Hob filling in. Gabriel Damon was so amusing as Hob, that I almost felt sorry for him, during his demise.I mean, what's not to like about some smart-ass punk kid who has a lunchbox that can "transform" into a Sub-machine Gun?
Could it be that this evil Macaulay Culkin fuckhead, saw the errors of his ways, as he laid dying while a sympathetic Murphy was holding his hand? Or is Damon that great of an actor? Either way, it is one of the few times I witnessed an onscreen death of a minor. Faxx, Hob and Cain even put together, were no match for the "charisma" of Clarence Boddicker however, they were worthy substitutes for this sequel.
All in all, we have at least three major villains in this film, ergo I can equate it to your (not so) quintessential Superhero movie where you have two or three top billing actors as enemies. Frank Miller is obviously challenging his biased views of African-Americans as witnessed by the portrayal of Detroit's Mayor Kuzak who at times, come off belligerent with this archetypal cussing but at the same time, really cares for his beloved city, even to the extent of making a deal with the Devil and a very short one at that.
And if you are a reader of his Daredevil books, there are tines where Juvenile delinquents are as bad as the adult criminals and by that, I’m not only referring to Hob or the unruly mob of teens at the arcade, but a whole fucking Baseball league of brats led by their coach! Miller seemed fixated on those tropes for one reason or another.Perhaps he was mugged by a bunch of young punks?
The film ends in serious consequences from Fixx's unchecked irresponsibility causing a violent massacre and major collateral damage. A bang and a whimper eluding to an abrupt minor cliffhanger. Robocop 2 has its share of faults with one of them being Composer Leonard Roseman's soundtrack which for the most part, was tame especially when compared to the brilliant Basil Paldourous score. Even the iconic Robocop theme was replaced by an all too repetitive one that gets sillier during the end credits when you hear the chorus; "Robocop, Robocop ". But if you listen closely to Cain's menacing cues, there is a little familiarity to Tyrant's intro during the first Resident Evil game. That said, I like "The Kid goes Wild" performed by Babylon A.D. which fits Hob perfectly.
In hindsight, it would have been more beneficial had Orion pictures been more patient and allowed the original team which includes director Paul Verhoeven and the screenwriters Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner to make a more proper Robocop sequel, Corporate Wars.
Behind the scenes Weller, Allen and especially Miller was not too happy with the revised script and changes that were implemented after the first draft prior to Irwin Kershner being onboard. And this is evident, when Murphy coming to terms as Robocop was a missed opportunity. There should have been more character depth than what was given from the final product. It's no wonder why I despise studio meddling especially from heads who have no fucking clue since this sequel was rushed to capitalize off the instant success of the first Robocop film if not sell Action figures!
Nonetheless there’s a lot to be said about Robocop 2, it’s cynical, ultra-violent, funny at times be it intentionally or not, and emotionally driven. All these ingredients make this a noteworthy sequel that holds up even after 30 years and at the heart of this movie, lies a Man's odyssey in search of his lost soul. Even if its buried in metal plates and circuitry. So, what have we learned from Robocop 2? Two things: Addiction itself, is a hell of a drug and Corporations are Nazis!
So Stalks, was there any predictions from Robocop 2, that came to light?
Gentrification and "Make America Great Again"!
What began as a precursor to the climactic battle between Robocop and the former messiah drug kingpin, now turned murderous cyborg Cain, OCP holds a press conference with the Old Man delivering the presentation of Robocop 2 and proposing high priced apartment complexes that will force homeowners and low income neighborhoods out of Detroit city.
The Old Man boasts about his plans and in his speech, he mentions; "There's going to be a big call for this unit, and we'll make him right here in Detroit. That means jobs we can all be proud of and make "Made in America" mean something again". Then promises plenty of jobs during his "Real estate " pitch. Sound familiar??
During this scene, a furious Mayor Kuzak, confronts the OCP Chairman in a heated exchange.
"Mayor Kuzack: Oh, we're not going anywhere.
The Old Man: (murmurs) Your Honor.
Mayor Kuzack: You'll have to tear down a lot of people's houses before you can make that thing and take away their homes.
The Old Man: We're going to raise towers of glass and steel. Every citizen will have a living unit. Safe, secure and clean. Now please, take your seat.
Mayor Kuzack: Won't be much room for neighborhoods, huh? Not like the kind that we all grew up in.
The Old Man: These days, neighborhoods just seem to be the sort of places where bad things happen. Don't be nostalgic.
Mayor Kuzack: What about democracy? Nobody elected you.
The Old Man: Anyone can buy OCP's stock and own a piece of our city. What could be more democratic than
Mayor Kuzack: Well, let me tell you: there are a lot of people in this town who can't afford to buy your stock, and they're not gonna let you get away with this!
The Old Man: You haven't been following the polls. Sit"
The "War" on Drugs
While "Nuke" is seen as this fictional narcotic sub McGuffin, you have powerful entitles like the United States government, who proposed harsher penalties for possession of recreational drugs. Mostly Black people were affected by these legislations especially after then President William Jefferson Clinton had signed the 1994 Crime Bill otherwise known as Biden's Law.
(Presidential candidate Joe Biden was solely responsible for being the architect of this act.)
Opioid epidemic far outweighs both Nuke and real-life Crack cocaine addiction and there were a few Cops getting hooked on prescribed medication that was originally legal!
Tabloid Guerilla Journalism
While confronting Cain, Murphy is quickly ambushed by a reporter who asks "Are you jealous of your replacement "? This type of “journalism” gained momentum during Barbara Walters’ infamous interviews but progressed into something worst when celebrities or politicians are given provocative questions to get provocative answers. *Looks at TMZ*.
The entire Robocop trilogy is now available on Starz Cable network and Blu-ray. For more Robocop, read Frank Miller’s Robocop or play Mortal Kombat Aftermath.