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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Robocop (Blu-ray)
Robocop (Blu-ray)
MGM // Unrated // October 9, 2007 // Region A
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted October 29, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

When Blu-ray discs were fairly young, Sony announced it was going to release Robocop on its new format.  Though expectations were high, when reviewers saw the disc they all slammed it for having poor colors and other obtrusive defects.  The disc was pulled from Sony's line-up and never released.  (This was mainly because MGM switched distributors, but hopefully the poor reviews had some impact on the decision.)  Now, a year later, MGM and Fox have released the unrated 103-minute version of this Paul Verhoeven classic on Blu-ray and it doesn't look bad.  Fans of this SF feature that pokes some not-so-gentle fun at American consumerism and corporations should be pleased.

Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is a cop who has just been transferred to the roughest area of Old Detroit, a place where police fatalities are common place and there's little respect for the law.  On the first day of his new assignment, Murphy and his partner Lewis (Nancy Allen) cross paths with a group of bank robbers.  They get the drop on him and after briefly but brutally torturing him, shot him in the head.  He's pronounced dead at the hospital and that seems to be that.

Except that Omni Consumer Products (OCP) has a new plan on the drawing board and they need someone just like Murphy.  They take his dead body and replace it with a cybernetic one.  Wiping his mind, they overwrite it with computer programs that make this new creature the perfect police officer.  When he starts remembering bits of his past however, he decides to go after the gang that killed him, and the corporate executive that is protecting them.

This simple sounding story that would have turned into a typical Sci-Fi channel movie (i.e. a piece of crap) in lesser hands but under Paul Verhoeven's watchful eye it becomes a minor masterpiece.  Verhoeven seems almost as interested in commenting on America as he does at telling Murphy's story.  The scary thing is that the greed, rampant consumerism, and governmental inefficiency that are portrayed in the film are even more appropriate today than they were in 1987 when Regan was president.  I remember at the time thinking that the government would never sub-contract out police protection, but that's what the State Department is doing today in Iraq.  The news-as-entertainment has also come to pass, and the E6000 car that uses it's 8.5 MPG as a selling point applies to mini-vans as well as Hummers.  Who can't watch the inane sitcom that plays at various times through the film and see today's programming where a catch phrase is more important than a plot?  "I'd buy that for a dollar!"

The main plot not only serves as a canvas for Verhoeven to paint his message, but it's also an action filled story that's filled with blood and some exciting fight scenes.   Even if you miss the not-so-subtle messages, the movie is a lot of fun.  The only problem I had is swallowing the rather ludicrous premise.  I mean come on, who in the world is going to believe that Buckaroo Banzai is going to let a group of thugs get the drop on him?  Just not gonna happen.

The Blu-ray Disc:


 
Video:

This disc was scheduled for release last year and pulled at the last moment after a few screener discs had been mailed out.  Josh Zyber reviewed that version for DVDTalk (read his review here) and wasn't impressed with the video.  Though I haven't seen that earlier disc, judging from his comments and other reviews on the web, this new release is a great improvement.  The 1.85:1 image is encoded with MPEG-2 compression with a rate of 21 MBPS and looks pretty good though not spectacular.  The disc is wildly inconsistent.  Some shots look great, but the next scene may look rather mediocre.  At its best the level of detail is very good and the colors look fine.  Many scenes look a bit soft however, and grain is a problem in the dark scenes, of which there are many.  More than a few parts look flat and drab too.  There is some edge enhancement on the image, but it's not as obtrusive as some it is on some discs.  I have no doubts that this disc looks better than the recent 2 disc SD release though.  This image does have some problems but none of them ruin the disc.  Over all this is an average looking BD.

Audio:

The disc comes with a lossless DTS HD 5.1 track as well as the original DD 4.0 audio.  There also DD 5.1 dubs in Spanish and French and subtitles in English, Spanish, Cantonese and Korean.   I viewed the film with the DTS track extracted from the DTS HD track since I can't process that format (yet) and it sounded pretty good for a 20 year old film.  (I also spot-checked the 4.0 track and did not notice any defects or problems worth noting.)  The film doesn't compare to recent releases, but it does a good job none the less.  The rears are used quite a bit, even in more sedate scenes ambient sounds are thrown to the back.  The noises aren't as discrete as they could be, and occasionally the audio sounds a bit processed instead of natural, but the track does envelop the listener.  More noticeable was a lack of power on the low end.  The bass response just wasn't that strong.  This was very evident at the end when the military hardware was going off and buildings were exploding.  These just weren't as dynamic as they should have been.  Even so, the film didn't sound bad.

Extras:

Sigh.  Why, oh why can't studios port over all the extras from the SD releases?  MGM recently released a 2-disc special edition of this movie on SD-DVD and virtually none of the bonus material is presented here.  The only thing people who opt for this BD get is a theatrical trailer.

Final Thoughts:

This is a film that can be enjoyed on more than one level.  On the surface it's a fun, though bloody, action flick.  Right underneath that is a humorous look at where American could be heading.  Either way you look at it, the movie works.  This Blu-ray disc looks pretty good too, and while it isn't reference quality it is better than the aborted Sony release.  Well worth checking out, recommended.

Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.
 

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