Tuesday, 23 March 2021

The Devil Rides Out


Terence Fisher

UK, 1968

Screenplay: Richard Matheson

A Hammer highpoint, from its vivid opening credits ‘The Devil Rides Out’ hits the ground running and careens along with the pacing of a tense thriller. Richard Matheson – always a reliable voice – streamlines and improves on Dennis Wheatley’s original tale of the diabolical (he even sent Matheson a thank you note). 

Christopher Lee as Duc de Richleau presides over all, such a mammoth presence that they have to send him off for research just to let the other characters do their thing. Lee’s air of superiority and arrogance remain, as with any of his villainous roles, but here every “You fool!” is offset with a little doubt and vulnerability too. There’s the aura of a repressed warmth. It’s there from the first scene where he smiles to himself when watching his friend fly in, or the simple fact that he does all this to save his friend. Whereas Peter Cushing’s earnestness is casually convincing and brings gravitas and credibility to the absurdities, Lee seems like he would slap it into you. He is hellbent that you take this seriously, even as some of the dialogue, out of context, could be unintentionally funny; even when a shocking reveal is chickens in a basket, or trying to stave off the apparition of a black man, and even when the effects are less than stellar. For every telling delivery of a line about how his friend should take any of his cars, there’s Lee barking when answering the phone.

To counterpoint, Charles Gray is great casting as Mocata, Richleau’s flipside who oozes privilege and arrogance and carves his place as Lee’s superior effortlessly, as sinister as Lee is brash.

The classism and patriarchy are deeply ingrained in everything. Every man speaks to the women with a certain condescension. The accent of the English gentry is good for that. This is about two men of a certain age and class playing out their games of Good and Evil on the younger generation (Youth: don’t meddle with adult things you can’t hope to understand). But it’s the innocence of childhood that thwarts the forces of darkness, however much the adults flounder about. However, Sarah Lawson does get a central celebrated scene, dealing with a visit from Mocata, and Nike Arrighi as Tanith has all the mystery as a seeming conduit for Morcata. It’s decidedly old-fashioned and as Patrick Mower says (in the Studio Canal release’s extras) they felt it was so at the time, but he now sees it as aging well. It’s become a cult classic.


It has several memorable set pieces: the rescue from the Black Mass; the car chase in antique vehicles; Mocata’s hypnotism attack on Marie Eaton in a plush lounge;, and, of course, a night spent in a protective circle enduring a supernatural assault. And of course, the reputation of ‘The Devil Rides Out’ is that the effects let it down, but the strength of the story and execution makes the imagination compensation for what’s lacking. For my money, The Goat of Mendes hits the mark: simple but eerie.

And it has an ending that kind of ignores all the bad that’s gone on so that things can be idyllic again, which certainly seems in keeping with religious denialism. It’s a bit of an anti-climax: Richleau really doesn’t do anything, and the devil worshippers just wait for the recital that’ll bring about their demise to finish. But it’s true that the Hammer Horror feel, which Terence Fisher established from the start with ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’, is that the excellent production and art design by Bernard Robinson, James Bernard bombastic score, some old-fashioned Englishness and the pure insistence of moodiness overcomes any obvious weaknesses. (I like the observatory.) With a swift pace and consistently dispensing with memorable set pieces, ‘The Devil Rides Out’ is great occult entertainment. 

Monday, 22 March 2021


James Wan

Screenplay: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick & Will Beall

2018, USA-Australia 

There is something playful, even positively camp, about James Wan’s approach: I always feel that he wants you to have a good time. But it also reduces genre to tick boxes and a lot of cliché. Wan’s approach is the kind of thing that parody movies and sketches are made of. You know the “Superhero landing” that’s often lampooned? That’s in earnest in ‘Aquaman’. Perfunctory and condescending narration; nicely filmed and often very pretty (genuinely, because you are dealing with coastlines, and artificially); all the tropes ticked without irony or stretch; often dialogue so bad it’s chuckle-out-loud. There’s a lot of unintentional humour here. Fifteen minutes in – and it’s an unnecessarily long film – and you might think: “Is it going to be this way throughout?” And it is. 

This is the one trying to give Aquaman some slacker cool, and the size and tattoos and handsomeness of Jason Momoa certainly helps. There’s a big softy charm to him beneath the fistfights. But there’s no quirks for him to work with. He trades apparent witticisms with Mera (Amber Heard) because he has unreconstructed machismo, sort-of flirting, and he has to reluctantly accept his legacy as The Reluctant Chosen One, etc… It’s CGI big, bright and boomy, but did it really take two screenwriters and three more credited with story to generate something so average? But that’s a feature of so many lacklustre blockbusters: maybe it takes several writers to knock off a script’s originality? It’s like the flipside of Zack Snyder doing superheroes. Dogs will be the comic relief kind that make comedy noises when appropriate. There’s some perfunctory family stuff, a bad guy with a grievance, etc etc. The camera never stops still as if scared there if trying to find something of weight to perch on. Perhaps they thought TV Tropes was a guidebook? It’s like a pop song that’s been autotuned and produced until it’s devoid of true character.

It’s a shame because this looks like it could have been fun, not just skimming the surface. Still, a lot of others had fun with it's gleeful silliness. The rooftop chase-fight is the high-point. Without the constraints of deploying plot, James Wan’s cinematic ability is given free reign and there’s a physicality in the middle of all this CGI. Remember when the aerial gliding shot in ‘Suspiria’ provoked gasps? Now, everyone has a drone and stunning aerial shots. But Wan shows some flair here, zipping across town to show two different melees. It’s a scene that has focus, is fun, that uses Wan’s razzle-dazzle to facilitate the action and narrative and not just to distract from its bombastic paucity. Otherwise, it’s a lot of CGI thrown at the screen. Compare with the underwater combat between Aquaman and his villainous brother, King Orm (Patrick Wilon): it just doesn’t have the same grip. 

And this is also speaks to the fact that the film never really finds a convincing, distinctive underwater aesthetic, which is surely a serious flaw. I mean, they float and swim, but there’s always the need to remind yourself it’s underwater and not just in space or flying around. The final battle is humungous and there’s fun to be had with shark-riders and… seahorse riders… underwater lasers… but none of it really feels tangible, it’s just paced too fast to touch. 

As typical with these blockbusters, you have loved names in the cast to bolster proceedings (Willem Defoe?), but it’s one of those excursions that makes everyone look a little sketchy. Nicole Kidman does whole kind-of saved-mermaid romance trope, skips through exiled warrior queen with funky armour, but changes into motherly robes to fill a maternal role as a healer by the end. 

It’s watered-down, lukewarm entertainment, spilling all over the place. Yeah, I went with a dumb end-of-review pun. 

But you have roaring sharks. 

And percussionist octopuses. 

Wednesday, 17 March 2021


 Some distractions:

Seven years making 'Sator'.

"Crash: The Wreck of the Century"  by Jessica Kiang

This is Jimmy Andrex's excellent review of the excellent book by Martin Christie, "Electronic Music Travels", which I have a personal stake in as someone who has attended and even performed at the Electronic Music Open Mic nights. Oh, and Martin is a friend too. I think the book is looking for a second print run. Here is me being serenaded with "Yes sir, I Can Boogie" by Jan Doyle Band at the last London EMOM hosted by Martin in 2019.

And here is an excellent economics lesson from Jimmy Andrex:

And an essential tale of horror:

And ending with essential electro-sounds from MHO:

Saturday, 13 March 2021

I Care A Lot

Writer & director: J Blakeson

2020, UK-USA

Starts with one of those narrations where the protagonist-villain is spouting that sociopathic bullshit about people being one of two types, predators or victims. Yeah. She’s a “shark”. But it’s unnecessary, as so many narrations are, because we can see immediately what kind of woman Marla Grayson (Rosamand Pike is). She’s scamming the legal system into putting elderly people into her care homes, enabling her to fleece them of their homes and money.

But then she plays her trick on the wrong old timer (a game but somewhat side-lined Dianne Wiest), whose son (a constantly stewing Peter Dinklage) is also a reprehensible gangland criminal. Mark Kermode says that the film plays with allegiances, but never once did I root for Grayson. What we are left with is knowing that, whatever happens, the bad guys will win. And they do.

The stipulation that a fiction’s protagonist should be “likeable” is, of course, absurd. What they must be is interesting and even, you know, complex. ‘I Care a Lot’ truly pushes that to its limit, because there really isn’t anyone to root for. Of course, it helps that there’s Rosamind Pike whose superficial smile is the stuff of nightmares, giving a sexy authority to her moral vacuity. And there’s Peter Dinklage, where you can feel the gears grinding beneath the surface. Both are brilliant turns. But what you need is an interesting plot if are at odds with the characters, dialogue and twists and turns, and the film has that enough. But what we also have is a plot that hinges upon henchmen not checking their victim has drowned and being unaware that they are being obviously tailed all night, it seems.

But the fact that ‘I Care a Lot’ doesn’t ask for your empathy for its protagonists no doubt contributes to the strength of negative reactions on Amazon commets: “Stupid movie” and “Waste of talent”, that kind of thing. But ‘I Care a Lot’ isn’t that, of course: Blakeson does what he sets out to do, and it’s stylish, well written and paced and always interesting. It’s certainly divisive and frutsrating. The second half moves into a thriller scenario and there is also a hint of the heightened reality here, so perhaps the bleakness and cruelty obscures the playfulness. It feels like it’s in the same semi-absurdist world as, say, Soderberg’s ‘Unsane’. For example, the credibility of Grayson’s scam might be an issue, if you know how courtrooms work, etc. It’s Grayon’s girlfriend (Eiza Gonzáles) who provides a hint of vulnerability and humanity, although this isn’t the would-be tragic tale of how she got swept away by a sociopath. Grayson is such a towering larger-than-life presence that it almost obfuscates the culpability of her enablers.

The final narrative note is a balm because the bad guys triumphing so big is perhaps too much to take for an audience, and films are there to see comeuppance given. But we know bad guys get away with it all the time, heading corporations, corruption, dodgy pasts, becoming president, etc. So that is perhaps the message that hangs: that we are run by crooks. And anyway, she philosophically wins because she had already stated fiercely, under duress, what she thinks of this outcome.

Sunday, 7 March 2021

Glasgow FrightFest: 'Vicious Fun', 'American Badger', 'Out of the World'

Vicious Fun

Cody Calahan

Writers: Cody Calahan & James Villeneauve

As it says on the label. A horror magazine journalist stumbles accidentally upon a support group for serial killers, and it’s all in-jokes and horror comedy fun from there. These days in the genre, you’re never far from an Eighties setting and the throb of a synth score, and that’s the aesthetic here. It certainly looks good and colourful.  It covers most of the bases of serial killers – even the anti-serial killer serial killer – and, although it is constantly winking to the audience, it never quite becomes obnoxious or overdone.  Evan Walsh’s central performance as Joel the Horror Journalist is the most winkiest of all, always a bit meta: perhaps his almost-obnoxiousness is a gag in itself, but Joel is also definitely a bit Nice Guy; all he needs is a serial killer to point out his dubious ways. And true to the manner of Eighties horror-comedies, it’s a little clunky in places and most of the killers feel a little short-changed in relation to how good the set-up is. But it’s obvious that the film just wants the audience to have a good time, and that counts for a lot. It has good pacing and moves on when one location has been exhausted; there are several good genre gags (“I’m all my stepdaughter has”; killers appearing from nowhere; a summary of the appeal of the horror genre are all favourites); some nice ensemble work; a little industry satire. And the final drive-in coda is a highlight. 

American Badger

Writer & Director: Kirk Caouette

2021, Canada 

We’re in super-skilled-fighter-saves-sex-worker territory here. But that isn’t quite the whole story. Off-the-grid super-assassin Dean (writer-director-star Kirk Caouette) is meant to seduce Velvet (Andrea Stefancikova) to extract what she knows about the Albanian mob boss she works for and then kill her. But he is solitary and isolated, like an American badger, and inevitably this human interaction gets into him and disrupts the plan. 

The tone is lowkey, washed out and downbeat and possibly a bit introspective for some, but it’s more fascinating than, say, Jason Statham’s ‘Redemption/Hummingbird’. Mostly because ‘American Badger’ lets us know very early on that there are going to be great fight scenes, and here are several. Caouette even cuts away from some to follow the story rather than the action. It’s a somewhat hoary premise (three of the eight films I’ve watched at Glasgow Film Festival feature this criminal-man-perhaps-redeemed-by-female: ‘Voice of Silence’, ‘American Badger’ and ‘Out of the World’) but there’s a pleasing fleet-footedness about the pacing, for however downbeat it is, it doesn’t stress one moment too long unless it’s the fights. And it’s those that really stand out, drawing from Caouette’s extensive experience as a stunt man. The capturing of a drab if cluttered world is assured, where call girls are left in poor imitation of Hollywood dreams, where the rooms they and hitmen live in are messy with just rudiments of character, and where clubs and bars are soulless backdrops to fights. There’s a moodiness here and control that shows Cauoette is no perfunctory director either, lifting it up from the average.

Out of the World

Hors du Monde

Witer & Director: Marc Fouchard

2020, France 

The IMDB synopsis is coy: “A shy man who works as a taxi driver because he can't afford to live as a musician, meets a deaf girl dancer who is attracted to him despite his trouble communicating.” But isn’t so long after our cab driver Leo – a gripping performance by Kévin Mischel – falls for Amélie (Aurélia Poirier) that we’re in ‘The Hours of the Day’, ‘Canibal’ (2013), ‘Henry: portrait of a serial killer’ if not ‘Maniac’ territory here: that is, the humdrum daily routine of killer. He lives and works in his car, but he’s also musician, composing melancholic instrumentals on his laptop of the orchestral kind (it’s good). But as so often happens with film killers, he believes murder is his muse. 

Fouchard’s film unfolds at a steady pace and gets increasingly engrossing as the character study deepens. The film stays close to the Leo’s mindset, incorporating interpretive dance as well as his kills – but how many of the kills are real isn’t quite clear, but he’s certainly guilty.  Leo is totally detached and off the grid, unable to socialise normally: dance turns into confrontation and, in an unsettling highlight, he has to hold a woman at knifepoint for dating advice. Leo doesn’t even know how, but Amélie is a mute dancer and these qualities – her disconnect and talent – entice him and gives him the impetus to try. He’s irredeemable – in an imaginary conversation, he doesn’t even let himself off the hook – but his struggle to try and suppress his nature and routine, to learn the gestures of flirting, are disquieting and gripping. He has a hangdog look that belies his murderous nature. 

In the end, murdering to make music is just his excuse: both offer a release for feelings he can barely control; sadness through music and rage through killing (he has mummy issues). It conflates artistry with homicidal nature – a trope of the serial killer genre from ‘Color Me Blood Red’ to Norman Bates’ taxidermy and many, many others - but the music is something Leo could be if he could get past the violence. Which he can’t.

Fouchard’s film weaves a dark spell, a sense of the claustrophobia of Leo’s mind and desires. ‘Out of the World’s deliberate pace demands attention and faith, but the journey to inevitable tragedy – where the film is the most Autumnally colourful – becomes riveting. It’s a strong, unforgettable and beguiling entry in the artistic rather than exploitational end of the Day in the Life of a Serial Killer genre.

Saturday, 6 March 2021

Glasgow FrightFest: 'The Woman with Leopard Shoes', 'The Old Ways', 'Run Hide Fight'

 The Woman with Leopard Shoes

Writer & Director: Alexis Bruchon

2020, France

There’s the gialloesque title, a crime plan set-up and a jazz-spy music that raises expectations of a playful crime-film homage. But what we have is more of an Escape Room scenario: he’s stuck in the room with a dead body so how does he avoid detection and get out using just cell phones and letters that he finds?

The black-and-white helps up the stylishness, and it’s fun just watching the burglar figuring things out. Clues are clearly laid out with other people conveyed only by voice, texts and footwear. It follows films like ‘Bait’ and ‘Sator’ in its wholly homemade quality – it’s a family affair with brother Paul Bruchon as the burglar and filmed in parent’s house, etc, and just look at the credits: mostly just Alexis Bruchon, including the music. Another triumph of vision and good writing over resources. Normally this would be short film stuff, but at 80 minutes, ‘The Woman with Leopard Shoes’ stays fun and engrossing throughout. There's fun in watching obvious talent play out.

The Old Ways

Christopher Alender

Writer: Mrcos Gabreil

2020, USA

It starts with a decent shocker and then we’re with a seemingly kidnapped woman who reacts to her situation as if she’s pissed off that she hasn’t been given the right coffee order, as if everything is an affront to her American privilege. And this is our protagonist And she will be way until she goes native and appropriates the Mexican demon-fighting powers. And no matter what ravages she undergoes, she always looks pretty. It's a chamber piece where they are trying to exorcise her of a demon, which surely offers great potential, but aside from being nicely filmed and a decent demon design, there’s not enough here to elevate it above the obvious and predictable.  


Writer & Director: Kyle Rankin

2020, USA

Zoe (Isabel May) is a troubled teenager, angry and combative after her mother’s death from cancer. All she needs to exorcise her demons and anger is a school shooting where she can vent and use her all-American hunting skills.  

Again, I went into this not having read anything, but the opening scene had all the cues that this was going to be an action-revenge story and that she was going to kick ass. And it was, although far less crude than that. And because I didn’t know what events were leading to, perhaps I got the full benefit of the patient build-up and clues being laid. As soon as the guy dropped the bag in reception, then I knew it was going to be a high school massacre scenario.

In his Q&A, director Kyle Rankin takes a deliberate potshot at Gus Van Sant’s ‘Elephant’, not understanding why that “arty” perspective would be better than this approach, following a young gal trying to fight back. Understandably, he seems a little ticked at the negative responses, but that was always going to happen with this subject. My answer is that ‘Run Hide Fight’ follows movie logic, follows the expected trajectory once all the pieces are in place and is more along the lines of wish-fulfilment. It has a verbose lead bad guy, typical of movie villains, for example, a dig at social media, etc. Van Sant’s approach is far more troubling for being ethereal and objective: they go in, they kill, it disturbs and feels truthful. It’s about the unfathomableness of the event.

For what it’s worth, ‘Run Hunt Fight’ is the least upsetting school shooting film that I’ve seen. Alan Jones calls it “ ‘Die Hard’ in a high school”, and this flippancy is far more on the ball. Of course, there’s room for both Van Sant’s and Rankin’s approach, and that which resonates more will depend on the individual’s taste. Although Kyle Rankin hopes ‘Run Hunt Fight’ opens up conversation on the subject, there is nothing in it that questions firearm laws or mental health treatment, although these are touched upon. In fact, it comes close to the argument that only a good firearm owner can stop a bad shooter. It’s Zoe’s story, which leaves other victims somewhat cannon fodder for her self-actualisation. If you were looking for something a little less arty but no less troubling, there is Mikael Håfström’s ‘Evil’; if you’re looking for exploitation than there’s Miike ‘Lesson in Evil’.

What ‘Run Hide Fight’ does have is an excellent central performance from Isabel May, some nice relationship interplay, a decent portrayal of its school geography, and consistent tension. It’s well paced, performed and entertaining. It makes good use of surrealist touches like a fight in room full of balloons and a slippery corridor and it’s a shame there isn’t more of this cleverness. As it is, this highly inflammatory and emotive subject is given as a backdrop for one girl’s coming-of-age and resolved with a punchline that was set up in the first act, for which apparently there will be no consequences.

Friday, 5 March 2021

Wildland - Glasgow Film Festival


Kød & blod

Jeanette Nordahl,

2020, Denmark

Screenplay: Ingeborg Topsøe

Jeanette Nordahls’ film is an assured if familiar drama of an orphaned girl, Ida, delivered into the lap of the suffocating crime side of her family. We’re in ‘Animal Kingdom’ here. But Nordahl’s drama is mostly talking about wanting and needing to belong, the sacrifices we make to do so, the coercion within families and behind closed doors. The reassuring love and allegiance and subtle bullying. And as this takes place in the domestic theatre, it inevitably becomes about (in Nordahl’s words) a rumination on “The power of the mother.” The boys have the physical force, but the matriarchy is just deploying this: this is a woman’s tale.  There is little showiness or melodrama and the run time is concise, which keeps everything direct and nothing outstays its welcome or is dwelt on too much. We know how this goes.

Set outside Danish urban spaces, it dwells on the fact that more rural contexts are infected with the sinister reach of crime families too. It captures the claustrophobia of the home: this isn’t a huge home funded by ill-gotten gains. One of the most resonant moments is when the family comes home but the camera just lingers a little as they all go their own spaces. It offhandedly shows how allegiances and affections, both genuine and due to the institution of family, breaks people down, and – as the film clearly states – it’s all potluck where you start out.

The film is centred by the performance of Sandra Guldberg Kampp giving a distinctive, unbratty and taciturn teenaged performance as Ida, hinting that she is and will be a considerable and intelligent force once she’s figured things out. Nordahl says of Kampp, “There’s s much about her that you want to find out,” and it’s this presence that keeps you fascinated throughout.

Voice of Silence - Glasgow Film Festival

Yep, so I’m watching a few films at the Glasgow Film Festival. Of course, I am scheduled to be watching the Glasgow FrightFest, but I have dipped in a little elsewhere also. I am now a big fan of virtual festivals.

Voice of Silence

Sorido Eopsi

Writer & director: Hong Eui-Jeong 

2020, South Korea

Two clean-up/disposal men for gangsters are assigned to look after a kidnapped young girl for a couple of days. But they are just small enablers in the crime world and aren’t quite prepared for this. A kidnapped child causing conflict and/or reflection for the kidnapper/s is a typical genre trope – ‘Hunted’ (1952), ‘A Perfect World’, ‘After Dark, My Sweet’, etc – and that’s the core here in Hong Eui-jeong’s film. The child here – Cho-hee, a wonderfully unaffected Moon Seung-ah - is quietly wise and capable, discreetly rearranging her hapless captor’s life. Watching her decide and adapt to her situation, right to the end moments, is a slow-burn treat.

The difference is that in this example, her captor is just as much entrapped in this world. It takes a little time, but the context for Tae-in emerges organically, conveyed in small things that his apparent relation Chang-bok (Yoo Jae-myung) says which increasingly expose themselves as manipulative, in the feral nature of his sister, and in the state of his living space out in the middle of nowhere. And Tae-in is played by Yoo Ah-in, who again delivers an exceptional performance (he is why I chose to watch this). He had very little to say in the brilliant ‘Burning’, and here he is a mute and, although bulkier, holds everything together just by sheer force of physical presence.  He’s no less ambiguous and vulnerable here, wordlessly conveying dejection, menace, bewilderment and realisation while others around him talk themselves around the situation. There is the sense that, for the first time and introduced to a more orderly world by Cho-hee, he is making his decisions independently for the first time. A compelling and brilliant performer.

Perhaps the slow reveals in the first half implies a darker hue, but ‘Voice of Silence’ (a somewhat ill-fitting moniker) moves through dark humour, broader humour and farce (the bicycle-van chase is a highlight). The tone is low-key, colourful, easy-going and yet quietly downbeat: someone dies in front of a flight advertisement of flying away and transcending; and don’t dismiss the suit jacket, a symbol of higher aspirations and power. It’s a testament to clear plotting that, upon finishing, the audience knows where all the apparent loose ends will lead. Perhaps it ends with one beat too many for sentimentality, but it’s the girl’s clear-headedness and the tragedy of Tae-in that resonates.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021


Paul Verhoeven

1987, USA

Writers: Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner

At the time, I was totally wrong about Paul Verhoeven. I misunderstood ‘Total Recall’ and griped at ‘Robocop’ a little too much. I didn’t understand the hyperviolence because I thought, at the time (the Eighties), that Hollywood action films were careless and cynical with it. But Verhoeven was coming from arthouse and exploitation and, when I saw his European films, his American output has since struck me as chuckling on the inside. Their satirical nature is evident, but there seems to me to be a greater mockery, for compared to his European arthouse films, his American output is decidedly comic book, as if this approach itself is a heckle on American cinema. ‘Starship Troopers’, for example, hits the generic beats of American tubthumping action cinema so accurately that many missed the joke. But Verhoeven had this satire and pastiche down to fine art right from the start with ‘Robocop’. And when he returned to European film-making, he returned to the gravitas more, although he proved no less the provocateur with ‘Black Book’ and ‘Elle’.

With ‘Robocop’ I remember my main grievance originally was with the ED 209. How, I wondered, would they get something of that size and weight up a skyscraper to the meeting room? Would the floors be reinforced to carry its tremendous weight? Was there an industrial elevator? Did they assemble it up there– and if so, did they have a lab on that floor? And then later: Wouldn’t the Ed 209 be programmed to recognise stairs and not even try to negotiate them? Well, I am less picky now and excuse under “comic book logic”, but the animal noises it makes on occasion that almost tips it into ‘Star Wars’ territory of anthropomorphism still mars it for me, but I can allow for that (you nearly always have to allow for something, depending on your taste). And of course the boardroom scene is a classic and a real shocker in its ultraviolence and cold-blooded black humour.

Basil Poledouris’ music for ‘Robocop’ is exactly the kind of bombast the Eighties action genre was typifying. The look is all steely greys, although the new prints are twinged with a pleasing purple that I don’t recall from seeing it the first time. This traverses similar terrain as Judge Dredd in its portrayal of a futuristic Detriot riddled with a crimewave that needs drastic, violent responses. Although in this scenario, the crime is manufactured and controlled by corruption, by the very same company selling that robot response. Some of the film’s technology might be dated, but the theme that it’s all about corporate corruption and the bottom line is as topical as ever. In fact, it’s vision of cartoonish media and barely recognised venality seems more timely now than ever. A corporate-bought police force? We can see that ever edging closer as a possibility.

It’s all hammered together with a brute force that gives a smooth if blunt edge to any subtleties, presented with a nihilism and assurance typical of exploitation. And it has that pulp thing of when a man is crossed with technology, the humanity will always rise to the surface. In fact, it’s implied that will make him a better Robocop, even if he seems to have been perfectly efficient beforehand, dispassionately mowing down bad guys after he has given sufficient warning. However, this also implies a moral centre to the mechanical. Peter Weller’s physicality and movement as Robocop is a wonderfully realised and convincing blend of jerkiness and mechanical authority (his physicality made his performance in ‘Naked Lunch’ a favourite of mine from the era).

As ‘Robocop’ never quite takes it eye off the black humour, it never quite becomes what it is satirising. Even down to Robocop getting the final line like a TV detective nod to the camera: not quite a punchline but serving a similar service into the credits. But it also offers: the ultraviolence (a bonus melting man too); the parody of news where devastating news is served with as much earnestness, flippancy and time as commercials; and the flirtation with vigilante justice (action movies just love it when cops go vigilante; sure, he’s a robot cop, but he’s exciting the same vengeance sensibilities as ‘Death Wish’ and ‘The Punisher’).

If you want to see what this could have been without the ferocious satire, just look at ‘Robocop2’ (a film that fascinated me for its chill and ruthlessness. I’ll admit), which feels far more perfunctory.  In fact, none of the sequel or cartoons quite captured that unique edge and balance of the original. Certainly, one could imagine Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner's script done without any of the wit. Verhoeven’s film now seems prescient. The blunt force and black humour has made ‘Robocop’ a lasting classic, a cult favourite.