OK, so yes I reviewed Jose Padilha’s Robocop remake favourably, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any better than the original, just very different. Whereas Padilha’s remake brought the film to today’s serious, emotional and in need of grounding audience, Paul Verhoeven’s stuck two fingers up to what is acceptable and politically correct, and attempted to upset and insult just about everyone, and we love the film for it!
The new Robocop is without bloodshed, without anarchy, and most certainly without chief villain Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). The new Robocop delivered on just about every level, but the films villain was almost non-existent, and was most certainly not a patch on the villains Verhoeven gave us in his version.
Boddicker lead a team of vile thugs that included Leon (Ray Wise), Acid Man Emil (Paul McCrane), Joe (Jesse Goins) and a large number of weapon hungry brutes looking for their next kill. These were real villains, loving the thrill of the chase, enjoying drugs and being in control, and when the streets turn to anarchy, they loved their new weapons (“I like it!” to quote Emil when given a gigantic gun).
Verhoeven’s villains were a real nasty bunch, and after witnessing them after a robbery argue over who burnt the fucking money, we know these guys are set to cause all kinds of mayhem, and they do not disappoint. After throwing ‘Bobby’ onto a chasing police car “can you fly Bobby”, Clarence and his cronies prove just how evil they are when they take down Officer Murphy in spectacular and gratuitous fashion. Murphy, a new and determined rookie, has joined officer Lewis (Nancy Allen) in the hunt for Boddicker and his men, and instead of waiting for backup, Murphy goes for all out assault, ending in violent tragedy.
Lewis is knocked out, while Murphy suffers one one of the most violent deaths in cinema history. Caught and taken to the brutal hands of Boddicker, Murphy still has his sense of humour when he calls Boddicker “slime”, but all that relief is soon taken away when Boddicker plays target practice, and blows Murphy’s hand off. He then gives the fun to his thugs, who proceed to blast Murphy into oblivion, but his bullet-proof vest saves him from death.
The jokes come thick and fast: “well give the man a hand!” bellows Boddicker after blowing Murphy’s hand off, and later on the onslught of bullets is met with the almost child-like pleas of “does it hurt, does it hurt?”. Verhoeven’s fascination with violence is portrayed in sickening fashion, and suddenly the idea of rooting for the bad guys feels wrong, insulting and unjustified. Boddicker’s cold shot to the head cements one of films greatest ever villians as he casually, coldly and calmly delivers the killer blow while chewing on his bubblegum. The celebration and excitement heard from his crew only heightens the disturbing factor, and having seen this for the first time, we the viewer will never be able to regroup and go back to the normality of safe films. With one single death, Verhoeven has pushed viewers over the edge, and pushed cinema into realms of ultra violence never, ever seen on such a level before (or even since).
The scene is shocking, brutal, disturbing, but ultimately brilliant as it shows just how far cinema could push its audience back in the 80’s, and it shows just how new ultra violence in its purest, most savage form like this, was as an experience. Never one for playing by the rules, Verhoeven delivered a cop death that would forever be imitated, with directors thriving to better, but no one since has even come close to the flamboyance, the brutality, the sheer love of violence as was witnessed in this classic scene.