Robocop wages a new war
Robocop 3, with Robert Burke, Nancy Allen, Jill Hennessy and Remy Ryan. Directed by Fred Dekker. Category II.
THE law of diminishing returns which normally governs sequels of successful Hollywood movies has been bent slightly out of shape by this effort.
Despite rumours its US release had been put back due to doubts over its appeal, and despite the loss of the original lead actor, Peter Weller, Robocop 3 is a better film than Robocop 2. Paul Verhoeven's 1987 prototype, though, could still blast it off any screen in town.
The major saving grace of this third chapter is a sheer unflagging energy level which skims it erratically over gaping plot holes.
Excess subtlety is not a problem. The film-makers have thrown in as many tried and tested ideas into the plot as they could think of, to compensate for the absence of that one elusive original thought. Still, it's a reasonable option in a semi-parodic piece like this.
Take for example Robocop's daunting list of adversaries. Not only does he face the scheming suits of OCP (Omni Consumer Products), the soulless corporate machine that created him, bu t also its new model army charged with clearing a slum neighbourhood due for redevelopment.
There is also a cracked-out, tooled-up psycho-rabble called the Splatterpunks and a matching set of mutant ninja terminators sent from Tokyo by OCP's new corporate master (he being yet another snarling, grotesque Hollywood caricature of a Japanese businessman).
With so diverse a portfolio of bad guys to manage, Robocop is kept on his toes - or would be if he had any - throughout.
There is little time for reflection or plot consolidation, not even much for the obligatory recap on exactly how this novel cross between Dirty Harry and a Lexus came to be cruising the mean streets of 21st century Detroit. Director Fred Dekker sees no need to dwell on it.
Instead of a recap we get a reworking of the same themes, indeed the same situations involving many of the same characters, trotted out in Robocop 1 and 2. Dekker's recipe calls for few ingredients to be taken out, while a lot are added.
Once again restless natives need to be neutralised; once again an ultimate solution is secretly planned; once again Robo is forced into a corner where he rejects the values of his wicked bosses and chooses to side with the underdog (this way he gets to fight absolutely everybody at some point or other).
The smattering of ''satirical'' TV commercials and news flashes among the action is also reprised, though with nothing like the wit of Verhoeven's versions. His cartoonish visual flair is also noticeably absent.
RoboCop 3 is less violent than its predecessor and the language has been toned down.
Dekker keeps one parsimonious eye on the body count even in the most explosive mob scenes, and anyone coming to this film straight from Last Action Hero won't fail to notice how many scenes boast an absolute shower of machine-gun bullets but no discernible casualties.
The same applies to the shameless use of the too-cute and too-clever-by-half streetwise kid tactic, the irascible-but-goodhearted moustachioed black desk sergeant gambit, and the well-bred-but-psychopathic super-mercenary, plus many more. But all, fortunately, are put to fine effect.
If Robocop 3 fails in the end to thrill enough, it is paradoxically - as with Last Action Hero - because it tries too hard.
It would be harsh to condemn a film for trying to give its audience what it says it wants in quantity, while maintaining a fair level of quality (save for a dreadful sub-Superman blue-screen aerial sequence at the end) and - in that kinder, gentler Terminator 2 kind of way - taking pains not to deprave and corrupt the Nintendo generation too severely.
Go expecting a worthy successor to Robocop and be predictably disappointed, or go expecting a third-rate cash-in and be unpredictably pleased by the result.