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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Robocop 2 Blu-ray Review

Robocop (Peter Weller) returns to fight his toughest opponent yet: his replacement! Robocop 2 pits two unstoppable cyborgs against each other in a battle to the death that will leave only the strongest standing! Containing the latest in gadgetry and weaponry as well as the brain of the madman Cain (Tom Noonan) who designed the drug “Nuke,” this new cyborg isn’t just more sophisticated than his predecessor…he’s psychotic and out of control! It will take everything Robocop has to save Detroit – and himself – from total destruction.

 

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

After the events of the last movie, the villains of the first movie Omni Consumer Products (OCP) got away with murder with no repercussions.  OCP still has an iron grip on the city of Detroit and all of its citizens, especially the cyborg known as Robocop (a former cop named Alex Murphy who was rebuilt after being almost killed).  Living conditions and crime have gotten even worse and the police are on strike because of the unfair work conditions brought on by OCP.  Murphy (Peter Weller) and Officer Lewis (Nancy Allen) are the only cops still working since he is considered to be the legal property of OCP and because Lewis is his partner who feels that she needs to back him up.

Not only is Detroit on the brink of foreclosure to OCP, but the city streets are filled with a new drug known as “Nuke” which is being supplied by a megalomaniac madman named Cain (Tom Noonan).  Caught between the ruthless OCP and the insane Cain, Detroit’s mayor (Willard Pugh) only has one option to save his city – a telethon.  Murphy has his own problems as he still longs for his family that he’s no longer in contact with since becoming a cyborg.  He’s been limited to just watching them from a distance which has unnerved his former wife.  When she tries to talk to him, the slimy OCP rep orders him to abandon his family since he has nothing to offer them anymore which Murphy sadly accepts.  Telling his wife that her husband is dead and that he was given his appearance to honor his memory, Murphy makes a clean if painful break with his former life.

Murphy soon discovers that a corrupt cop named Duffy has been working for Cain on the side and after some aggressive interrogation, finds out where Cain’s base of operations is.  Unfortunately for Murphy, Cain his eight year old protege Hobbs (Gabriel Damon) and their men are waiting for him and he ends up chopped to bits and dumped at Police Headquarters in front of the striking officers.  Seeing Murphy dismantled so viciously, the officers end their strike to assist him.  The OCP weasels are reluctant to spend the money to fix Murphy especially since they’ve already spent millions of dollars on his replacement.  Their tests have failed so far as each of their test subjects have killed themselves after becoming a cyborg.  One of the OCP psychologists named Dr. Faxx (Belinda Bauer) is convinced that if the company quit trying to replicate their success with Murphy by using cops as test subjects and instead focus on criminals since they would be more likely to want to transform.

Faxx gets her ideal candidate when Murphy finally catches Cain after being rebuilt and eliminating the inane command directives that Faxx had programmed into him.  Faxx takes matter in her own hands and cuts off Cain’s life support and turns him into Robocop 2.  This goes about as well as the ED-209 did in the first movie since Cain is mentally unstable and even worse, he’s addicted to Nuke himself which Faxx takes advantage of by using his addiction to control him.  Well at least for awhile.  At a press conference to unveil OCP’s future vision of the city and to unveil Robocop 2, things go very badly once he displays a canister of Nuke in front of Cain who goes on a rampage to get the canister.  It will be up to Murphy to take him down as the two cyborgs battle it out through the city streets.

This film ended up being director Irvin Kershner’s final film after he completed his masterpiece The Empire Strikes Back and directed Sean Connery’s last appearance as James Bond in Never Say Never AgainKershner does a good job balancing the film’s continued satirical tone that’s continued over from the first film through fake commercials, with the movie’s action and humor.  He also wisely brought back one of his Empire collaborators, Phil Tippet to do the stop motion effects which were very good for their time.  It’s been reported that both Weller and Allen were unhappy with the final cut of the movie but both do a good job although Allen is barely even in it.

The movie was also fairly controversial since not only was a young boy shown to be a murderous thug but he’s also killed in it which was pretty shocking to audiences at the time.  Robocop 2 contains a lot less gratuitous violence than the first one, but it’s still got plenty of killing and action.  This film also marked the beginning of comic legend Frank Miller’s Hollywood career as he was hired to write the script and even plays a drug maker in the movie.  While the film has weaker villains this time around, it’s still a fun movie to watch and better than many sequels but it doesn’t hold a candle to The Empire Strikes Back which is still Kershner’s towering achievement as a director.

Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

The film’s 1080p (1.85:1) transfer is definitely an upgrade over the previous DVD but not as good as I had hoped it would be.  Detail is pretty good as are colors when they appear, but there’s also several instances where the picture looks undefined and murky which is a shame.  They are mostly in dark scenes (of which there are a lot) but most of the film’s running time looks above average which isn’t too bad for a film this old and a catalog release at that.  Black levels are decent but occasionally washed out and contrast is acceptable.  This isn’t a terrible transfer but it could have been a lot better.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)

Robocop 2′s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix fares better than the video quality with it’s fairly aggressive mix.  Dialogue is clear and understandable and the music and effects also sound great.  The mix does a good job spreading the action across all of the channels and I enjoyed hearing the gunfire all around me.  I also liked hearing the cyborgs stomping around with their heavy feet and servomotors in use.  The final battle between Murphy and Cain sounds really good and serves as a nice example of the film’s audio.

Special Features (1 out of 5 stars)

The only special features on this disc are two trailers.

Final Thoughts (3 out of 5 stars)

I liked the commercials (especially the anti-theft one) and the overall satirical tone of the movie.  After watching it, I realized that I didn’t love it as much as I used to as a kid but it’s still a good action movie with a lot of dark humor.  I think it’s a shame that they didn’t continue Murphy’s personal progression from the first movie, since they basically hit reset and returned him to being more machine than man.  The cast is all fine and it was nice to see all of the OCP villains return, especially Dan O’ Herlihy as The Old Man who is deliciously evil.  You can now buy this separately or as part of the Robocop Trilogy set that’s already been released which is probably not too expensive by now.
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