You Have 5 Seconds To Comply: Celebrating 30 Years of Robocop (1987)


Robocop is officially 30 years old, and to celebrate the occasion we are looking back at the enduring legacy of the cult classic film.

Yesterday marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the science fiction classic Robocop. As a young impressionable child in the 1980’s, I remember the first time I saw Robocop. It was loud, it was violent and it was awesome.

via Orion

Robocop is a film that not only tell’s the story of an unstoppable law enforcement machine cleaning up the streets of Detroit, it also tells the story of a man struggling to find his humanity when man is melded with machine. Robocop tells the story of Detroit Police Officer Alex Murphy, killed in the line of duty and resurrected, to quote the tagline on the theatrical poster as a “Part Man, Part Machine, All Cop.”

Robocop opens with a news segment known as Media Break. Media Break sets the back story for the rest of the film. You learn that Detroit has been overrun with violence and crime. A mega corporation known as Omni Consumer Products (OCP) has recently entered into a contract to fund and run the Detroit Police Department through their Security Concepts division. You also are introduced to cop killer Clarence Boddicker, Detroit’s criminal underworld boss.

Officer Alex Murphy recently transfers to Metro West substation of the Detroit Police. While gathering his gear and getting ready for his shift a veteran officer prophetically welcomes Murphy by telling him “welcome to hell.” Murphy’s new partner is Officer Anne Lewis, a tough and gritty officer who hits the streets with Murphy.

via Orion

As the story moves along we are introduced to Bob Morton who is a young executive at OCP. During a board meeting of OCP execs, Vice President Dick Jones begins giving a presentation on a new project that has just been finished. Jones advises he has come up with “a cop who doesn’t need to eat or sleep, a cop with superior firepower and the reflexes to use it.” He unveils OCP’s newest creation, ED-209 (Enforcement Droid Series 209).

Enforcement Droid Series 209 – via Orion

During the presentation we learn that OCP has basically bought all of Detroit’s debt and now plans on renovating the city and in essence running it. ED- 209’s job is to protect workers and enforce law. Jones picks an unsuspecting executive to demonstrate how ED-209 will work. For some reason a silver plated Desert Eagle handgun is in the board room and Jones gives it to the executive. ED-209 roars to life and advises the poor executive that he has 20 seconds to drop the weapon.

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When the executive drops the weapon, ED-209 continues to countdown. It becomes clear, very quickly that something bad is about to happen. With the classic words “You have 5 seconds to comply…4,3,2,1 I am now authorized to use physical force” ED-209 unleashes a barrage of bullets from weapons mounted on either arm. The poor executives ripped to shreds in front of a horrified boardroom.

After finally shutting off the giant killing machine Bob Morton sees an opportunity. He approaches the CEO known as The Old Man and advises him of the Robocop program he is working on which is superior to Jones’ ED-209. The Old Man advises Morton to prepare a presentation and meet him in 20 minutes. Jones who is standing by tries to shut down Morton but The Old Man rebuffs him.

Meanwhile Murphy and Lewis are on patrol when they receive a call in reference to a recent robbery. As they peel away they find the silver panel van which houses Clarence Boddicker and his band of goons. As Murphy and Lewis close in, a gun battle erupts and Boddicker is able to escape by throwing one of the goons through the police cruiser windshield.

Murphy and Lewis find the van empty at an abandoned steel mill. Murphy asks for backup and is told 15 minutes before back up can arrive. They decide to go in without back up and try to arrest Boddicker and his gang. For some unknown reason they decide to split up.

Lewis finds one of the gang members but is knocked unconscious. Murphy discovers another set of Boddicker’s gang and dispatches one of them. While holding the other at gunpoint he says the famous line “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”

With Lewis out of commission Murphy is forced to handle the large gang by himself. Alone and with no back up, the gang overpowers and disarms Murphy. Boddicker shows up and the gang proceed to kill Murphy in graphic detail. He is literally blown apart with shotguns. Unfortunately his wounds are too much and he pronounced dead at the hospital.

Murphy is then reborn as Robocop. The film takes us on a violent and colorful journey as Robocop discovers who he was and what happened to him, while he proceeds to clean up the city and hunts down Boddicker and his gang. You learn that Dick Jones and Clarence Boddicker have been friends all along and has Bob Morton killed by Boddicker.

Your Move Creep – via Orion

The film proceeds at breakneck speed, as Robocop deals with the vile criminal element in Detroit sometimes with violent results. The story comes full circle as Robocop is faced once again with Clarence Boddicker in the final showdown of good versus evil.

The end of the film wraps up beautifully. Robocop struggles with his identity after having flashbacks of what happened to him and regains his humanity which is illustrated in the last line of the film. When asked his name, Robocop smirks and tells the person “Murphy”. The theme swells and the film ends.

Director Paul Verhoeven has said many times that Robocop is the telling of the Jesus story. According to Verhoeven, Murphy is crucified and then resurrected as Robocop. As a nod to this, toward the end of the film during the final showdown of Robocop and Boddicker, if you look closely is appears that Robocop is walking on water.

Spawning two sequels, a television cartoon series, a regular television show, a reboot in 2014 and also a recent coffee table book that covers all aspects of the Robocop universe, proves that audiences loved and still love the future of law enforcement.

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Robocop is an amazing film and still holds up to this day. It is one of my personal favorites and I can quote it line for line. It is that good. Not only is Robocop a cinema hero many other deeper themes are present. Themes such as corporate greed, identity, the struggle for one’s humanity, religion, violence, consumerism just to name a few. So do yourself a favor, if you don’t have a copy of Robocop, go find one. Kick back, relax and enjoy this masterpiece. I’d buy that for a dollar.