Robocop 2

It's difficult to imagine a summer film programmed more cynically than this repugnant sequel. Three years ago, director Paul Verhoeven made something vividly satirical and scary with the futuristic tale of Alex J. Murphy (Peter Weller), a Detroit cop killed on duty and transformed by an evil corporation into a law-and-order cyborg, RoboCop. Weller's soulful eyes, peering through his visor, suggested feelings that hadn't died — the man was still fighting the machine.

From the looks of things, director Irvin Kershner (The Empire Strikes Back) and screenwriters Frank Miller (author of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) and Walon Green (The Wild Bunch) didn't know what to do for a follow-up. For starters, though, they cut out the human drama. After a brief scene in which Murphy parks outside his home to sneak a glance at his wife and son, action obliterates feeling. Bodies are blown up in lip-licking close-ups. On the streets, hookers grind their heels into men's eyeballs to steal money for "Nuke," a new designer drug injected into the neck. A foulmouthed twelve-year-old boy plots murder; a little girl breaks an old man's kneecaps with a baseball bat. And when Murphy comes up against his ultimate enemy, who is it? A bigger, badder machine. RoboCop 2 is all machine, and it's all vile.

From The Archives Issue 170: September 26, 1974