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Robocop 3 (June 5/04)

If nothing else, the awful Robocop 2 did a nice job of lowering viewers' expectations for this third installment. The best one could hope for is a movie that's not an ordeal to sit through, and on that level, Robocop 3 certainly excels. When placed side-by-side with the original, the film doesn't quite hold up. But, at the very least, Robocop 3 works as a popcorn movie - something part two couldn't even manage.

The film continues the OCP storyline laid out by its predecessors, with OCP taking the final step towards completing their much-discussed Delta City. In order for this to happen, the citizens of Detroit must be forced out of their homes and into relocation centers. Assigned to this unpleasant task are soldiers known as Rehabs, led by the villainous Paul McDaggett (John Castle). Enter Robocop (played by Robert John Burke this time around). Along with his faithful partner Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), Robocop steps into the fray and joins the rebellion against the Rehabs.

Despite the absence of series star Peter Weller, Robocop 3 is a much more satisfying follow-up than the first sequel. The lack of humor and all-around nastiness of the second one has been replaced by a more adventure-oriented vibe. Director Fred Dekker (who also co-wrote) brings a good amount of style to the film, an element that was sorely lacking in Robocop 2 (that film had all the style of a sitcom). As a result, the movie has a distinctly family-friendly feel - despite the fact that Robo still shoots to kill. The transformation from ultra-violent gorefest to comparatively docile kiddie flick isn't nearly as jarring as it could've been, thanks primarily to the disastrous second installment (just about anything is preferable to that).

Burke does a fine job replacing Peter Weller, though he never does quite get the voice down. Allen continues to look uncomfortable holding a gun, while fellow series regulars Robert DoQui (Sergeant Warren Reed) and Felton Perry (Johnson) make perfunctory appearances. The film's script - by Dekker and Frank Miller, who co-wrote the second one (and presumably learned from his mistakes) - contains a number of genuinely funny moments, including a sequence in which Robo is forced to commandeer a pimp's pink Cadillac.

The silliness of the film's third act - Robo flies around the city, saving the oppressed citizens! - ultimately hurts it, compounded by the less-than-subtle aspects of the script (the Nazi imagery, in regards to the Rehabs, is laid on incredibly thick). Still, the movie is essentially entertaining throughout - though nobody will ever confuse this for Paul Verhoeven's classic original.

out of

About the DVD: MGM Home Entertainment presents Robocop 3 with a surprisingly crisp and clean letterboxed transfer, and newly remastered soundtrack. The only bonus feature is the film's theatrical trailer. The disc is available either by itself or as part of the Robocop trilogy (which, obviously, also comes with the first and second installments of the series).
© David Nusair