After about a half hour of RoboCop 3 (1993), I paused the film. I had to look at how much time had transpired since it began. I was concerned because with the aforementioned period of time gone by, the title character had clocked in roughly five minutes of screen time, maybe less. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that this is not a RoboCop (Robert Burke) movie. If you pay attention to such things, or read my reviews of the previous two films, you will notice that it is not Peter Weller filling the title role, who is the cyborg police officer once known as Alex Murphy. Weller, instead, was filming a movie called Naked Lunch (1991). Whatever that is, it meant that those who made the third installment had to do it a certain way in order to get around aspects that did not match with the previous two films. You see this particularly in flashbacks that contain footage from the previous two. They could have saved themselves the trouble of not making it at all, but since they did, here you go.
Since RoboCop 3 is about corporate corruption and greed instead of a cyborg police officer, we start with a commercial for Omni Consumer Products’ (OCP) continued fever dream of creating a utopia in Detroit called Delta City. Since the corporation owns the city, this notion is not too far-fetched. The problem is their methods. They have brought in a group of mercenaries called “Rehabilitators,” led by Paul McDaggett (John Castle), fresh off toppling a South American government, for the purpose of “urban pacification.” This sounds somewhat ominous, but in practice it is worse. Their job is to clear out the parts of Detroit that are to be demolished to make room for Delta City. This is how we meet Nikko Halloran (Remy Ryan), a child computer prodigy living with her parents in one of these areas of Detroit earmarked for destruction. Panic ensues following a wrecking ball crashing through their wall. In the process of being herded outside, she gets separated from her parents. She is taken in by a group of people leading an underground resistance against OCP, led by a woman named Bertha (CCH Pounder). Nikko uses her skills to help the rebels break into a police armory and steal weapons. As they flee the scene, they are pursued by the series sidekick, Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen). They manage to disable Officer Lewis’ vehicle in a bad part of town, and soon she is about to be overrun by a gang of criminals. This is when we finally get to see RoboCop, who abandons his pursuit of Bertha to assist his longtime friend Officer Allen. Still, as they are driving away, he notices Nikko outside a church and being ushered inside it by Bertha. Back at the precinct, the new OCP executive overseeing RoboCop, Jeffrey Fleck (Bradley Whitford), is seeing their multi-million-dollar investment going rogue. To fix it, he orders the scientist that maintains RoboCop, Dr. Marie Lazarus (Jill Hennessy), to install a chip that would inhibit RoboCop’s emotions. Because Dr. Lazarus sees RoboCop more as Alex Murphy than a machine, she refuses. This means RoboCop is free to return to the church. When he enters, he finds a group of displaced peoples with the rebels defending them. Shortly thereafter, McDaggett and the Rehabilitators arrive and open fire, killing Officer Allen. With her dying breath, she has Officer Murphy swear to her that he will get those responsible for her death. And with that, he flees into the sewers to retreat to the rebels’ secret base. As happens a lot in this movie for no apparent reason, the exertions of doing all this leads to RoboCop malfunctioning. He manages to tell Bertha that he needs Dr. Lazarus, and it is Nikko that walks right into Detroit Police Headquarters and gets the scientist to come to their hideout. Hence, it is clear to OCP that RoboCop is no longer their, um, man. The new chief executive officer (CEO) in charge of OCP (Rip Torn), turns to their Japanese investors for a solution. They send over Otomo the Android (Bruce Locke), essentially a ninja cyborg, to take care of RoboCop. Meanwhile, the rebels have a traitor in their midst. As RoboCop goes on a Rehabilitators killing rampage to avenge Officer Allen, he finds said informer, Coontz (Stephen Root), telling McDaggett the location of the rebel stronghold. Hence, while he is away trying to get even, he is not there to prevent the Rehabilitators from destroying their base. They capture Dr. Lazarus, but Nikko is able to escape. By the time RoboCop does return, he is greeted by Otomo. There follows a rather anti-climactic fight. Outside, OCP has empowered the Rehabilitators to arm the gangs in order to finally take care of those resisting their tactics. The rebels are joined by the Detroit Police Department, who mutinied when McDaggett tried to get them to join their pacification. RoboCop chips in, too, this time with the ability to fly. With that situation taken care of, he zooms up to OCP’s corporate tower where he has to take care of two more versions of Otomo before saving Dr. Lazarus and Nikko. McDaggett is blown up when he tries to detonate an explosive to kill RoboCop. As the smoke clears in Detroit, the Japanese executives that have taken over OCP come and bow to RoboCop and the denizens they had been trying to displace.
I am not going to spend any time on the silliness of RoboCop 3 other than to say that it is present. These movies were made because RoboCop looks cool and people fantasize about extreme crime being met with extreme measures. The eye-for-an-eye approach to law and order is barbaric, and un-Christian, but it apparently makes for cinema that many want to see. Okay, maybe not to the same degree with this one as others in the series, but you get the point. When you have these intense situations, you need to have equally plain ways of signally something is good. Nikko is the obvious example. However, there is a brief mention of nuns and priests. It comes when OCP is trying to paint RoboCop as a villain in their newscasts in order scare the people of Detroit. The anchor delivers a story of RoboCop murdering nuns and priests, with a recreation of his metal leg stepping over the lifeless face of a sister lying in a puddle of blood. The anchor finally gets frustrated with the story, walking off the set in disgust and wondering how anyone would believe this stuff. She feels this way because, at least at the time this film is made, there is still the perception that members of the clergy represent good. Only a truly despicable person could do something like this, or so our brains would supposedly tell us. Anyway, it is a brief moment in otherwise unremarkable film.
Like I said at the outset, RoboCop 3 is less about the title character, and more about an anti-corporate message. If that is what you want to see, then I could probably recommend some different movies than this one. It is a strange one.