OF all the violent blockbusters out this summer, Irvin Kershner's ``Robocop 2'' distinguishes itself as the most insidious. That may sound extravagant considering such competition as ``Die Hard 2'' and ``Total Recall,'' but ``Robocop 2'' has some exceptional characteristics.
Masquerading as social satire, the movie actually is a relentless indulgence in sadism with a child sadist/criminal as a central character - a dangerous hook for those troubled adolescents who might identify with him.
As odious as the first ``Robocop'' was, the movie manifested a certain sinister intelligence with its sometimes blackly witty jibes at the excesses of the '80s. Its crucifixion-resurrection theme about a good policeman who is dismembered and killed and then brought back to life as a ``cyborg'' (one-part man to 10-parts machine) is at least clever. And Peter Weller invests his machine-like character with poignant humanity amid the violence.
What really lives on with the viewer after ``Robocop One'' ends, however, is the torture sequence involving Officer Murphy. ``Robocop 2'' twists this motif one notch further.
The villain this time is a drug-addicted psychotic prophetically named ``Cain,'' who infests the streets of a near-future Detroit with the designer drug ``Nuke.'' Once this grubby guru gets his grip on Robocop, he wrenches away his life - again.
Later Cain requires the boy Hob, his junior partner, to watch the mutilation of an informant. Hob takes it like a man - so well in fact that when Cain crashes and burns, Hob takes over his operation. The child - an appalling role model for thousands of viewers , wields a machine gun like a toy and tries to strangle the only decent female in the movie.
Ah, but the kids in the audience of this R-rated film should identify with the hero. Perhaps that is why a whole line of Robocop toys entice young viewers on the shelves of many fine toy stores.
ROBOCOP 2'' has none of its predecessor's sardonic wit. Nearly every jibe at ruthless business practices, environmental disaster, advertising excesses, and ruthless self-indulgence seems forced, and worse, hypocritical.
The only arguably interesting sequence in the film comes at the beginning. A commercial advertising an electrocution device for cars claims to outdate the normal alarm system. Then on the evening news a nuclear disaster in the rain forest, and a Nuke fanatic guns down the Surgeon General just as he warns the public about the drug's ghastly hazards. Out on city streets the homeless wander in hopeless despair. A bag lady with a shopping cart full of aluminum cans is mugged. Then the mugger becomes the muggee when a couple of prostitutes beat him savagely and take the old lady's trinkets. A store front blows up behind them and several thugs rush in to steal weapons of every description. A police car drives up and the thugs blast it with a rocket.
Out of the flames steps Robocop, dispatching the mad dogs.
The sequence promises more than the rest of the film delivers, because it at least describes a network of crime - of evil so coiled around itself it resembles the struggles on the underside of a rock.
Gross, absurd, cartoon-like, and funny, the opening might be a metaphor for the whole genre with its non-stop violence roaring toward a totally ludicrous climax.
Tongue firmly in cheek, it might have been the perfect short. Certainly the rest of the movie is superfluous.