Film review: Robocop 2

Published: Monday, June 25 1990 12:00 a.m. MDT

"RoboCop" was a delightful surprise a few summers ago. It was witty, funny and exciting, though admittedly its violence was way over the top.

And so I had high hopes for "RoboCop 2," especially knowing it was directed by Irvin Kershner, who helmed what many people consider to be the best of the "Star Wars" trilogy, "The Empire Strikes Back."

But "RoboCop 2" is a sequel in the worst tradition. It's a loud remake from the bigger-is-better school and confirms the worst fears of many parents that Hollywood is too often irresponsible and out of control.

Actually the film starts off with great promise. Peter Weller, as Murphy — a k a "RoboCop" — has now become an established crime-buster with a following. Especially since the rest of the Detroit police force is on strike.

But he has a glitch in his memory that makes him think he's still human. So he tracks down his family, which is just getting over mourning Murphy's death, and watches his wife and son from afar.

This is naturally upsetting to his wife, so she sues the force. Is Murphy man or machine? Despite a certain amount of human feeling, it's decided he's just nuts and bolts. So he promises to back off and not harass his family.

There is some real poignancy in these early moments and it appears that this "RoboCop' may have some heart to it, lending depth to the razzle-dazzle violence we expect will come later.

Alas, after these initial scenes, the entire subplot is dropped as if it never happened. And though there is some later allusion to RoboCop's humanness, it's never explored again.

Instead, the focus shifts to Weller's tracking down mobsters who deal in a new synthetic drug called nuke. Oddly enough, the film seems to spend an inordinate amount of time with the villains and much less with RoboCop.

The bad guys are led by a boss with a god complex, which leads to some rather tacky religious contrivances linked with slimeball drug-pushers.

But perhaps the film's most disturbing aspect is the way it treats children.

A scene in the film's second half shows a Little League team, led by its coach, robbing a stereo store, as team members beat the store owner with baseball bats. Is this supposed to be funny?

Wait, it gets worse.

One of the main villains is a young boy (Gabriel Damon), who seems to be 11 or 12. He kills without mercy, swears like Eddie Murphy and feigns goodness when he wants to get close enough to adults that he can strangle them. This kid becomes a central character, eventually getting a deathbed scene that strives for sympathy the character doesn't deserve.

There are some funny commercials and TV news clips again, with many actors from the first film reprising their supporting characters. But none of them have very much to do. Even second-billed Nancy Allen comes and goes so that we never know whether she's still a part of the movie.

Eventually, of course, there's the showdown with a raging, out-of-control, updated RoboCop prototype. But the movie is so full of plot holes and unresolved situations that often it makes no sense, and this is the strangest example:

The early RoboCops being developed to follow in Murphy's footsteps, keep committing suicide, supposedly because cops' brains being used for these cyborgs are unstable.

So the mad scientist assigned to resolve the problem decides to use a psychotic death-row inmate instead of a cop for the next RoboCop.

Say again?

Despite a few laughs and some exciting moments, "RoboCop 2" is a mess.

And parents should really think twice before letting their youngsters see the example made of children in this picture.

It is rated R, of course, for considerable violence, gore and profanity.

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