Robocop 3

(Fred Dekker, USA, 1993)


This third instalment in the Robocop series sat on the distributor's shelf for well over a year before being timidly released.

Perhaps someone in the film industry had read the article in that smarmy magazine Movieline mercilessly deriding all "number three" sequels as predictable, cheap junk – a lame opinion piece that, in one way or another, comes around every few years.

This reviewer begs to differ: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 (1987), Hellraiser 3 (1992) and Robocop 3 are all pretty terrific films.

Gone, of course, are most of the pretensions to chic art and hip social commentary that characterised Paul Verhoeven's original Robocop (1987). A viewer flies through this instalment as if were a streamlined, no-nonsense comic book.

Writer-director Fred Dekker (The Monster Squad, 1987) unfussily re-jigs elements from the previous films, such as the satire of infotainment media and the pathos which surrounds our synthetic hero. The best new touch is a plot celebrating popular resistance: disgruntled cops and homeless citizens banding together to fight state fascism.

Robert Burke is ingeniously cast as Murphy, the dying policeman who was unfortunate enough to be returned to active duty as a machine. Besides looking rather like original Robocop Peter Weller, Burke's years of acting in Hal Hartley films have emptied any trace of natural personality he may have once possessed on screen.

So, this time around, Murphy behaves very much like the loveable android Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation, declaring his affection or anger in wonderfully understated, robotic ways.

There is much to enjoy here, including a feisty little girl who can infiltrate any computer system; a sadistic Japanese android with a much better fashion sense than Murphy; and that wonderful character actor Rip Torn – whose portrayal of a corrupt, corporate businessman instantly brings back the days when American popular cinema specialised in cheeky political comedy.

© Adrian Martin October 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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