Last of the Monster Kids

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Friday, May 26, 2017

RECENT WATCHES: RoboCop: Resurrection (2001)

I'm beginning to question how the creators of “RoboCop: Prime Directives” picked the subtitles for each installment. “Dark Justice” made sense for the first movie, as the plot concerned a vigilante. The second and third episodes, “Meltdown” and “RoboCop: Resurrection,” seem to me like they should be switched. The second part concerned a character returning from the dead. The third part revolves around RoboCop's systems being completely torn down. Maybe they just decided it was catchier this way? Either way, “Resurrection” continues the “Prime Directives” series' attempt to follow the lead of the original, low budget and lack of talent be damned.

Last time we saw RoboCop, he was fleeing with Cable into the ruins of Old Detroit. “Resurrection” picks up there, both cyborgs being pursued by OCP shock troops. Murphy's power cells are nearly depleted, his life endangered. The two are soon separated. RoboCop is rescued by the band of mutant thieves he met last time. Cable, meanwhile, is abducted by Dr. Kaydick, a mad scientist with a grudge against the whole world. Kaydick manipulates Cable by implanting a kill switch in the cyborg's brains. Soon, the two RoboCops are once again turned against each other.

It seems every episode of “Prime Directives” is more action-packed than the one before it. “Resurrection” begins with a lengthy sequence of Cable gunning down the OCP men. The film ramps towards its conclusion when RoboCop drives a muscle car into a warehouse. This leads to another big sequence, with both RoboCops shooting yet more OCP goons. While this goes on, Kaydick and his ex-wife Ann – that's one of the superpowered ladies – have a kung-fu fight. The film even attempts some Verhoeven-esque ultra-violence. A bad guy gets his arm blasted off before Cable beats him to death with a sledgehammer. There's a problem though. Director Julian Grant's grasp on action is unimpressive. He employs slow motion too often, creating a melodramatic tone. The pacing is awful, as the action scenes drag on and on.

Something “Prime Directives” has lacked up to this point is a decent villain. Damian Lowe is  too smarmy and Bone Machine was laughable. “Resurrection” introduces Dr. Kaydick. If you watched a lot of genre television in the nineties, you might recognize Geraint Wyn Davies from “Forever Knight” and “Dracula: The Series.” Kaydick is a goofy character. A former OCP scientist, he's responsible for the Old Detroit thieves' superpowers. Kaydick can also run fast and shoot lightning bolts. His ridiculous plan involves a virus that infects both computers and people, an invention that stretches believably even for a sci-fi show. The writing is weak but Wyn Davies happily hams it up. He sports a perfectly demented grin and delivers all his dialogue in a horse whisper. If nothing else, a half-way decent villain centers the convoluted story a bit.

Speaking of the convoluted story! In its third part, “Prime Directives” is finally starting to do something with the various subplots it's set up. The last part concluded with James Murphy discovering RoboCop is his father. Throughout “Resurrection,” James insist he doesn't care about his RoboDad, helping OCP track him down. Yet, when they come face-to-face, his story changes. “Resurrection” also sees Lowe's advanced AI, SAINT, automating most of Delta City. By the end, the program has adsorbed Kaydick's killer virus, presumably setting up the last installment. This stuff is middling at best but at least the story is moving forward.

“Prime Directives” is still making attempts to follow the spirit of the original “RoboCop.” Satirical commercials play throughout, including a gag about Lowe replacing all the newscaster with clones of the same woman. Yet the mini-series' own mythology receives the focus here. I can't say I'm too interested in John Cable struggling with his robotic state or Kaydick stealing his daughter away from his ex-wife.  The seams in the acting are starting to show too, as Page Fletcher becomes a weaker RoboCop with every new installment. Still, I'm almost at the end of “Prime Directives” so I might as well wrap it up. [5/10]

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