Friday, March 3, 2017

ROBOCOP 2 (1990) (Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review)

ROBOCOP 2 (1990) 

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 117 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen 
Director: Irvin Kershner
Cast: Gabriel Damon, Belinda Bauer, Dan O'Herlihy, Nancy Allen, Peter Weller, Tom Noonan

Synopsis: RoboCop 2 pits two unstoppable cyborgs against each other in a battle to the death! When Detroit's descent into chaos is further compounded by a police department strike and a new designer drug called "Nuke," only RoboCopTM can stop the mayhem. But in his way are an evil corporation that profits from Motor City crime and a bigger and tougher cyborg with a deadly directive: Take out RoboCop. Containing the latest gadgetry and weaponry as well as the mind of the madman who designed "Nuke," this new cyborg isn't just more sophisticated than his predecessor... he's psychotic and out of control! And it's going to take everything RoboCop has – maybe even his life – to save Detroit from complete and utter anarchy.

Thinking back on this one I realized it is the only Robocop film I caught first run in the cinema, I don't have the best memory of loving it at the time, and the movie has sort of languished in the back of my mind as a less than stellar sequel to an amazing, dark and violently satirical first film. Director Paul Verhoeven did not return for this sequel, he was making Total Recall (1990) with Arnold Schwarzenegger at the time, so the producers brought in director Irvin Kershner, the guy who directed, in my opinion, the best sequels of all-time, Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980), but let's be real, he also directed one of the worst, the non-cannon 007 flick Never Say Never Again (1983), but he also directed The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), which I have a soft spot for. Producers also brought in comics writer Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City) as screenwriter, which again is both good and bad, I like a lot of Miller's work, but I don't think the he quite captured the satirical stuff I loved about the first Robocop for the sequel, his tone is dark, but different.

Again we have Robocop (Peter Weller, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension) in Detroit battling the evils of the inner-city, Omni Consumer Products (OCP)are still trying to create a new Robocop, literally calling their creation Robocop 2! OCP are also out to build the city of the future, something called Delta City, and to that end they are out to force the city to default on their payments to OCP, which would somehow force them surrender control of the city to OCP. The Old Man (Dan O'Herlihy, Halloween III) returns as the OCP CEO, and he's turned into quite a corporate bastard since the first film, wherein he seemed alright, for a corporate guy. The idea of Detroit declaring bankruptcy probably seemed like such a oddly dystopian idea back in '90, but not these days, haha.

As OCP own the cops they make things worse for Detroit by cutting wages and pension plans for cops, causing a city wide police strike, leaving Robocop and his partner Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen, Carrie) as the only cops out on the streets, so as you can imagine the whole damn city is thick with crime. The movie opens with a fun neon-lit montage of a thief robbing a bag lady only to be roughed-up by some violent prostitutes, so it does have a bit of the Verhoeven satire to it, mixed in with some of Frank Miller's darkness, you see a lot of his vision bleeding through, including the commercials, one of which features actor John Glover (Gremlins 2) selling a lethal form of car alarm, it's good stuff but not on par with the first film, which was more biting. Sadly we do not get any of the infamous "Id buy that for a dollar!" lines peppered throughout. 

One of the villains of this movie is a drug dealer named Cain (Tom Noonan, Manhunter)who peddles a new designer drug called Nuke. Cain is a weird cult-leader new age spiritualist, Noonan is nicely creepy in the role, but we don't get enough of him in my opinion. His right hand man is actually a young kid named Hobs (Gabriel Damon), a pint-sized killer with a shit attitude, and Cain's girlfriend Angie (Galyn Görg). Also working against Robocop are the corporate baddies at OCP who are looking to replace goodie-goodie Robocop with a new successor, after the failure of good old ED-209 from the first film. 

OCP are still using fallen officers to create cyborg robocops, but the problem they're having is that their creations tend to go insane, shooting up the lab techs before committing suicide. Enter psycho-psychologist Dr. Juliette Faxx (Belinda Bauer) who aligns herself with The Old Man to create a new Robocop, unwisely using the criminal Cain as the brain inside the new armored Robocop 2! Great idea, what could go wrong? Perhaps the idea that you now have a drug addicted Robocop might pose a bit of a problem, which of course it does.

Faults aside I have to say the movie holds up better way than I remembered, which is not usually the case usually i remember older movie far more fondly than they deserve, but that is not the case with this one. Sure, it's not on par with the original (so few are), but the violence is good and strong, Miller does channel some of the same darkness and satire that Verhoeven brought, but it is toned down, and that was a huge part of what I loved about the first movie. It also touches on an area I thought could have given the character of Murphy/Robocop a bit of new life, like when we catch him stalking his ex wife, keeping tabs on her, but that tasty tidbit of a subplot evaporates before it can even begin to boil. Nancy Allen returns here as officer Lewis but she is awful, more fairly, she doesn't have a whole lot to do, and the character is poorly written. I love Allen in De Palma's movies, but watching her in this, the next sequel and Poltergeist III (1988) recently, she can be a bad actress when not given some proper direction, real bad.

What the sequel does right is keep the action coming, this is a violent movie, the gore is toned way down, but I love the stop-motion animation between Robocop and Robocop 2 at the end of the movie. With Cain's brain inside the armored R2 we sadly do not get enough of Noonan as Cain, who is relegated to a Lawnmower Man esque digital face on a TV screen once inside the steel-machine, so as much as I loved the R2 design, I wish somehow we would have had more of Noonan incorporated into it.

This would be the last time we would see Weller in the role of Murphy/Robocop, and already it's a case of diminishing returns, honestly they just don't explore his humanity enough to keep the personal story interesting, it's dropped in there but just disappears, wrapped up way to fast for my tastes. I will say I love the new Robocop suit this time out, it has a pearly blue/purple tone to it that looks great on film, and Weller is iconic in his own way, giving some distinct line readings, which will be sorely missed in the bland sequel to this one. 

Robocop 2 is a fun watch, it's a lesser film but still maintains just enough of what I loved about the first to keep me plugged in right till the end credits. There's plenty of action, some watered down satire, Miller's dark humor and some bloody violence, unlike R3 this one maintains an R-rating and isn't aimed at the kiddies. 

Audio/Video: Robocop 2 (1990) arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a brand new 2K scan from the interpositive with a new color correction. The results are very pleasing, I own the MGM Trilogy Blu-ray set and this is a nice upgrade. Grain is nicely managed, the colors are more impressive, black levels are good and deep. The image is sharp, nicely detailed with some good depth, this is good stuff. 

Audio on the disc includes English DTS-HD MA 2.0 and 5.1, the surround offers some good use of the surrounds when the action amps up, a solid surround track. The stereo track is also solid with good stereo separation. Optional english subtitles are included. 

Extras on the disc are plentiful and nicely in-depth, beginning with the 32-minute making of doc  with new and vintage interviews with director Irvin Kershner, producer Jon Davidson, cast members Tom Noonan, Nancy Allen, Galyn Görg, executive producer Patrick Crowley, associate producer Phil Tippett, cinematographer Mark Irwin and author/CG supervision Paul M. Sammon. A nice, honest, remembrance of the making of, including producer Jon Davidson speaking about the convoluted process of making the movie, the original story ideas including a Robocop love story! 

There'a also a 32-min FX featurette with Phil Tippett, Peter Kuran, Craig Hayes, Jim Aupperle, Kirk Thatcher, Paul Gentry, Don Waller, Justin Kohn, Randal Dutra and Kevin Kutchaver, an 9-min interview with RoboCop armor fabricator James Belohovek, a 6-min interview with comic book writer Steven Grant on adapting Frank Millers screenplay for Robocop 2, plus 46-min of archival production and behind-the-scenes videos including interviews with director Irvin Kershner, actors Peter Weller, Dan O’Herlihy  and a look at the filming of some deleted scene. Additionally we have trailers and a series of image galleries rounding out the extras. Almost forgot to mention the 3-min deleted scene gallery, which sadly is not actual deleted scenes but descriptions of some significant story elements that were left on the cutting room floor, I think if Scream had been able to unearth the actual deleted footage that would have certainly made this a much more sought after release, but as it stands this is a damn fine release. 

The single disc release comes housed in a standard blue keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork, featuring a new illustration by Paul Shipper, which sadly looks like a painted version of the usual floating head photoshop stuff, which I hated. The reverse side features the original one-sheet poster, which isn't much better< sadly, this is one of the ugliest packaging artworks I've seen from Scream Factory. There's also a slipcase (o-ring) featuring the Shipper artwork, groan.   

Special Features:

- NEW 2K scan of the inter-positive
- NEW Audio Commentary with author/CG supervisor Paul M. Sammon
- NEW Audio Commentary with the makers of “RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop” documentary – Gary Smart, Chris Griffiths and Eastwood Allen
- NEW Corporate Wars: The Making of ROBOCOP 2 – featuring new and vintage interviews with director Irvin Kershner, producer Jon Davidson, cast members Tom Noonan, Nancy Allen, Galyn Görg, executive producer Patrick Crowley, associate producer Phil Tippett, cinematographer Mark Irwin and author/CG supervision Paul M. Sammon (32 min)HD 
- NEW Machine Parts: The FX of ROBOCOP 2 – featuring Phil Tippett, Peter Kuran, Craig Hayes, Jim Aupperle, Kirk Thatcher, Paul Gentry, Don Waller, Justin Kohn, Randal Dutra and Kevin Kutchaver (32 min)HD
- NEW Robo-Fabricator – an interview with RoboCop armor fabricator James Belohovek (9 min)HD
- NEW Adapting Frank Miller’s ROBOCOP 2 – an interview with comic book writer Steven Grant (6 min)HD
- NEW OCP Declassified – a collection of rare archival production and behind-the-scenes videos including interviews with director Irvin Kershner, actors Peter Weller, Dan O’Herlihy  and a look at the filming of some deleted scene (46 min) HD
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) HD 
- Teaser Trailers (2 min) HD 
- TV Spots (1 min) HD 
- Deleted Scenes (2 min) HD 
- Still Gallery (1 min) HD 
- Still Galleries (behind-the-scenes photos, stills, posters and lobby cards)(9 min) 

I was surprised how much I enjoyed re watching this sequel, it holds up surprisingly well, way better than I remembered. Sure, it's got a few parts that are less than stellar, and the satire and humor aren't up to the standards of Verhoeven's original, but this is a fun watch and loaded with plenty of Robocop action. The new transfer looks top notch and the extras are fantastic. 3/5