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Third Robocop installment saved from complete disaster

Robocop 3
Orion Pictures.
Directed by Fred Dekker.
Written by Frank Miller.
Starring Robert Burke,
Nancy Allen, and Rip Torn.
Loews Cheri.

By Scott Deskin

The prospect of yet another movie in the Robocop series seemed to typify Hollywood behavior at its most mindless and indulgent. The first movie was a fine combination of action, fantasy, and social satire, but its sequel was primarily a mean-spirited exercise in violence and mayhem. When Peter Weller, the lead actor who played Robocop, failed to sign to a third movie and a replacement was brought in, the movie sounded as if it were doomed from the start.

Surprisingly, the movie is not a complete disaster. Taken for what it is, basically a comic book adventure brought to the screen, Robocop 3 is fairly successful at offering an ample amount of violence with a minimal plot to its audience.

The story begins with a pseudo-fascist police state clearing out a run-down section of Old Detroit, forcing people from their homes so that construction may begin on a corporate vision of urban Utopia, known as Delta City. The corporation that owns the Detroit police department, OCP, has just been taken over by a huge Japanese megacorporation that is desperate to profit from this construction project. When a squad of police thugs purges a neighborhood of its citizens, a little girl is separated from her parents and is taken under the wing of a radical resistance group.

What ensues is a series of confrontations, woven together in a very loose story. Robocop must once again defy his superiors in the police department (and OCP) in order to restore justice in the city. In the process he must again reconcile his mission with his past memories as a human, confront the death of his longtime partner (Nancy Allen), and battle with a secret ninja weapon brought from the secret depths of the new Japanese corporation. Also, by the storyline defined in the first two movies, Robocop must also come close to being destroyed, only to be rehabilitated by some of his friends (in this case a spirited female technician and the little girl, who happens to be a technological wizard).

Most of the film borders on the laughable. The problem is that the producers weren't sure what tone they wanted the film to take. The fascist police villains are, of course, evil, and the resistance leaders are, by definition, good; these one-dimensional characterizations don't allow for rigorous plot development. The gang that terrorizes the city, dubbed the "splatterpunks," is eventually recruited by the villainous police commander to battle Detroit citizens and cops alike, which stretches the bounds of what is truly ludicrous. Last, but not least, Robocop acquires a jet pack (shades of The Rocketeer, anyone?) before the final battle sequence of the film. You have three guesses as to who emerges victorious.

To its credit, Robocop 3 has a few enjoyable stunts and some cute scenes that involve the little girl aiding the rebels to infiltrate the police armory. Robert Burke, the new actor playing Robocop, bears some physical resemblance to Weller and bears the emotional range of a robot wonderfully. However, this does not excuse the reasoning for making another Robocop sequel, which typifies the repulsive aspects of moviemaking excess. Hopefully the death of Nancy Allen's character signals some end to this trilogy. If, for lack of something better to do you decide to see this movie, try to remind yourself that imagination is not completely dead in Hollywood -- although it may seem that way.