01/23/23: MY FIRST ROBOCOP (pt. 1)
A look at Paul Verhoeven's satirical sci fi action movie masterwork.
In case you missed THE DRAWL on other platforms, here are links to the first two parts of THE DRAWL’S three-part look at Paul Verhoeven's satirical sci-fi action movie masterstroke. Accompanying transcriptions are below and stick around till the end to see how to win this ROBOCOP art just by subscribing to this newsletter.
It’s a scorching southern summer day in the middle of July 1987.
Your wife has taken some preciously rare time for herself, leaving you in charge of your two elementary school-age boys. Boys who have just hit the front steps of your home like the beaches of Normandy.
There is a movie they want to see. A movie they NEED to see.
A movie about a robot.
A movie about a cop.
A movie where a cop is a robot.
How bad could it be?
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ROBOCOP cost 15 million dollars to make. Ten million less than THE UNTOUCHABLES, which debuted the same summer.
And yet despite his budget constraints, Paul Verhoeven presents an inspired, naturalistic cyberpunk landscape, designed to both reinforce and poke at the unchecked capitalism that led to this world’s horrific state.
The dystopian Detroit presented feels much more like a throwback to the Wild West frontier towns besieged by the greed of the big railroads. A lawless land in need of a shiny tin star.
Sure, ROBOCOP’S big ask is a ride-along into its creepily prescient future—but its biggest job is to beguile us with the comforts of genre.
Sure, my grandfather’s noirs, and westerns, and war movies possess some of the same basic appeals. But those films present evils anyone could face so long as you have the guts to stand in the street at high noon, or the steel to take that hill.
But trapped between Vietnam and The Cold War—my dad’s generation had far less glory to wallow in.
Action Heroes of the ‘80s became caged tigers. Their burden was real life. Inescapable mortgages and ruined marriages. Asshole parents at little league games.
When a clear threat did arise it was so large, so grandiose, so ridiculous— it couldn’t even be compared to grandpa’s opponents.
Hell, grandpa wouldn’t be caught dead in his recliner with spaceships, or robots, or dragons on his TV. But for my dad, it was almost as likely as fighting nazis.
So there he is, in a cool theatre on a sweltering day.
Feral spawn clawing at his knee.
He’s seen no trailer. Read no reviews.
It’s parental Russian roulette.
But it’s about a robot sheriff.
How bad could it be?
Violence, and drug use. Unsexy locker room nudity. It had all somehow blurred past without comment.
But “FUCK” was the magic word. A word he never said around the family. A word you never heard. At least not in Grandpa's movies.
Hearing that first F-bomb had woken dad up— “One more of them words and we're going home.”
If only we had. If only we'd known not to follow Murphy and Lewis into that steel mill.
Without warning, the movie suddenly jerks off of the parallel tracks of homage and satire that it ran so effortlessly along, and into a violent collision of extremes. In a few brief moments that feel somehow both shocking and endless— your expectations are both shattered and rebuilt.
But even as Murphy's tormentors finally exit and the pace mercifully slows, the carnage only worsens.
So much is taken from Murphy in so little screen time, that when ROBOCOP’S moment finally arrives and he stomps into the station— shiny and bulletproof and reborn— you’re practically screaming for justice.
Snatch them motherfuckin’ car keys!
Bend that motherfuckin’ gun barrel!
Clothesline his fuckin’ ass into a soda freezer!
Shoot that son of a bitch in the— WAIIIIIIT!!!!
Did he— ho-lee—
DID ROBOCOP SHOOT THAT GUY IN THE DICK!?
TO BE CONTINUED…
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Aight. That’s it for now. Look for part 3 of my ROBOCOP series on THE DRAWL’s various platforms: (TikTok, IG, Youtube).