Ah, the good old days when all you had to do to name a sequel was put a number after the original film name! Even though I have seen the original multiple times since the early 1990s, this is the first time I have watched any of the RoboCop sequels. There are a few mild spoilers ahead.
This film begins with an orgy of drug fuelled violence, gunfire and explosions that of course culminates with Robo arriving with his iconic Beretta to deal with the bad guys.
The police are still on strike after the last film but RoboCop and a few others are breaking the strike to protect the citizens of Detroit. The cops seem to have accepted RoboCop as Alex Murphy now and tend to refer to him as Murphy.
The main evil in this episode is drugs with a new drug on the street called Nuke which RoboCop is determined to eradicate. The gang seems to be led by a kid and RoboCop, despite being happy to shoot and beat men and women at the slightest provocation can’t even bring himself to threaten children. Perhaps because of some hangup over his lost son who he keeps having flashbacks of throughout the film.
It soon becomes clear though that this kid is senior in the organisation but it is run by Cain, a designer drug dealer with too much fondness for his own product. Like Clarence in the first film, Cain is an unstable psychopath who has no business leading a major organisation.
Once again the actors playing bad characters get to have a lot more fun than the good guys. While Robo and Lewis get to be macho and kick ass, they are still a bit straight and boring. On the other hand Cain and his gang are wild and unpredictable. They do everything with exaggerated flair and always look like they are having a good time doing it right up until Robo shoots them! They are nowhere near as menacing or over the top as the villains in the first film but they do a valiant job of imitating them.
Robo looks a lot more polished in this instalment, the suit is better made and more realistic looking. However the movements are significantly more exaggerated and often look silly rather than menacing as presumably was intended. Murphy’s movements are slow and ponderous and have the look of someone moving deliberately carefully in a difficult environment rather than the smooth precise movements of an advanced robot. The improvements in the physical design of RoboCop are somewhat undermined by the hilariously bad effects for the new OCP product “RoboCop2” which waddles about more comically than even ED209 did in the original.
The footage of this new cyborg always looks like it has been crudely glued on to the background which or course it has. Some of the clips of failed prototypes are pretty funny though and the crudity of the effects may be a deliberate ploy to reinforce the humour of what would otherwise be very dark and gruesome scenes.
Having learnt their lesson with using cops as the basis for their cyborg police officers, OCP decides that the next logical step is to recruit criminals with nothing left to lose to serve as the starting point for their new product. Using drug addiction as well as software to bend their creations to their will. Of course only OCP are surprised when it turns out that using drug addled psychopaths to make heavily armed superhuman robots is a bad idea.
Anne Lewis returns as Murphy’s “partner” but seems to spend most of the film away from Murphy (possibly because the force is stretched thin by the strike action). She still gets to kick ass and take names but is a bit more relegated to Murphy’s sidekick in this film, often mopping up after him and arresting anyone he hasn’t already shot.
After RoboCop is badly damaged after
running off on his own and not telling his partner or anyone else where he was going a raid gone bad, OCP deliberately refuse to fix him to worsen the strike situation and improve the market for their RoboCop2 product. OCP then change their tack and fix RoboCop, taking the opportunity to change his programming and do some more advanced brainwashing again intending to weaken RoboCop and prepare the way for RoboCop2. He comes back seeming like he has been given a Genuine People Personality. He starts spouting nonsense in the form of small talk and begins to lecture criminals on social etiquette and proper nutrition.
Then there’s the new directives:
#250: “Don’t walk across a ballroom floor swinging your arms”.
#252: “Don’t take up more than your share of the closet space”
[These can be seen by pausing the BluRay and advancing frame by frame during a certain scene, there are a lot more but I couldn’t catch them!]
Robo manages to clear his bogus new directives and rally the striking cops to go on an all-out offensive against the drug lords and their Nuke empire. Of course the captured drug lord becomes the prototype for the new RoboCop and is used by OCP to help them take over the city leading to the inevitable showdown between the original RoboCop and RoboCop2.
Murphy seems to have decided that he is immortal in this film and spends a lot of time standing about letting people shoot at him and nonchalantly returning fire whenever he feels like getting round to it. In his very first appearance in the film he allows criminals to shoot his police car (while he is driving it) with a bazooka (twice!) and then with automatic weapons before finally emerging from the wreck. Then he stands around while they shoot him with all sorts of other weapons before finally taking them out. This behaviour leads to all sorts of trouble for Murphy and if he would move about a bit more and maybe seek cover occasionally he’d be in a lot better shape.
There are a couple of nods to the original film besides the obvious. Alongside the RoboCop2 project, OCP are still trying to clear the pesky residents out of Detroit so they can build their Delta city. This time they are trying to do it by bankrupting the city government and forcing them to sell the city to OCP to pay off its debts. There’s also a side plot about Murphy’s wife trying to renew her relationship with Murphy but after a couple of scenes that don’t really go anywhere it is dropped and never mentioned again.
Towards the end there are some distinctly cartoonish sound effects in the inevitable Robo vs Robo boss fight. These are in stark contrast to the aggressively macho sound design of the first hour and a half of the movie and distract significantly from the grand battle sequence. It is almost like at the very end the director has bottled out of making a serious movie and decided to pretend he had been playing for laughs all along.
Not as gritty, violent or original as the, er, original and essentially a re-hash of the storyline from the first film this is still a fun adventure with the emphasis more firmly on fun than seriousness.