All the talk of Jose Padilha’s Robocop remake got me in the mood for watching Paul Verhoeven’s classic, just as a reminder that no matter who you put in charge of the remake, you will never, ever top Verhoeven’s original. Even by today’s standards of violence, few sci-fi flicks come close to the astonishing brutality of Robocop. As you can imagine, from the vast amount of classic deaths: The ED 209 malfunction, the “can you fly Bobby?” moment, to Murphy’s horrific slaying at the beginning of the film, it is extremely difficult to pick a favourite.
Robocop, as a film, has aged like a fine wine or a single malt whisky, very well indeed. It doesn’t look dated, instead it looks authentic and perfectly captures the 80’s feel of discovering new technology, the need to be controversial to get noticed, the lack of consideration for young viewers, the anarchy, the truly brilliant characters that get lost in today’s world of over-clever writing or bad CGI. Robocop reminds us of a time when you didn’t have to hold back on the violence to get a pathetic 12A rating (to be fair, it hadn’t been invented then anyway!), it brings back fond memories of proper special effects, the one’s which at the time were jaw dropping, and yet were usually so simple. It reminds of a time when villains really were villains: Kurtwood Smith’s Clarence Boddicker still stands the test of time as one of the greatest villains ever committed to screen. The fashion in the film is also a perfect reminder of the 80’s, yet Verhoeven somehow pulled off a magic trick that makes it look current in today’s world. The police uniforms, the kind of futuristic looking cars, those guns, especially “that fucking gun” that Robocop had.
Then there’s Robocop himself, a shining example of how to do robots created from dead cops right! Robocop was scary, yet somehow lovable, and with the always hysterical TV interview line of “stay out of trouble” he was a hero you listened to and always rooted for. The film taps into our fantasies of just what technology can do, and with other creations like the ED-209, Robocop was just one great big fanboy thrill ride of total brilliance that I find hard that anyone could possibly dislike. The characters, the insane TV adverts and news reports, the villains, that disco scene with the always brilliant Ray Wise being dragged by his hair, the one-liners: “I’d buy that for a dollar!!”, the comedy “Dick, you’re fired!!!!” The film is simply not willing to play by the rules, and is one of the most politically incorrect films ever, and what makes it even more exciting is that the film really could not give a shit! And to top it all off there’s the violence, and boy when Verhoeven’s wants to shoot violence there are few who have the ideas and reckless courage of this man.
As I have said, there are far too many good things to choose from, but surely the Toxic Waste Death of Emil Antonowsky (Paul McCrane) has to top them all. The man who is baffled when he first meets Robocop, shouting “your dead, we killed you!”, and later on when about to go to war with Robocop, picks up a gun more than twice his size claiming “I like it!!!”, meets his demise in the most fantastic way ever imagined. Even watching this scene today, you cannot help but be at first appalled, but then quickly you will find yourself cheering at just how amazing this death really is. The poor fella, with his balding head and strange beard has Robocop in his sights and attempts to run him over. However, Emil did not spot the huge barrel of toxic waste directly behind the futuristic law enforcer, and drives straight into it. The rest, if you have not already seen (shame on you if this is true) can be seen in the following video. If Padilha has even considered doing a reboot of this scene, there is no way, absolutely no way he will be able to get it as good as this. Perfectly timed, perfectly acted, the camera is perfectly placed and the effects are, well, perfect. While many death scenes covered here have been upsetting, disturbing or just downright nasty, this here is a death scene to actually enjoy and watch again and again and again! So, enjoy!!