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R.O.T.O.R.

R.O.T.O.R.

Robotic Officer Tactical Operation Research

Cullen Blaine

USA, 1988

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Review by Thomas Scalzo

Posted on 21 May 2014

Source Netflix Streaming

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The End

Dr. Steele
To combat pure will, you’ll have to use pure illogic.

Captain Coldyron
What do you mean?

Dr. Steele
You will have to allow yourself to fail. Use your failure against him. Your failure is his failure; your weakness is his weakness. Then, only then, can you do something.

Captain Coldyron
Great. Except, I don’t know what any of that means.

Welcome to the world of R.O.T.O.R.: A land of incompressible logic, flowery soliloquies, and radical skunk mullets; a place where speaking with authority is more important than making sense, and where you better bring your sidearm for that last-minute trip to the mini-mart. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Meet Captain Bartlett Coldyron, a burly, marble-mouthed man’s man who’s happiest sharing coffee and carrots with his horse and practicing his lassoing skills out on the ranch. But Coldyron is also a crackerjack policeman/scientist dedicated to solving the world’s crime problems through technology. His life’s work is R.O.T.O.R.: a crime-fighting robot capable of putting an end to the endemic problem of gangs, thugs, and societal undesirables.

Realizing that not everyone will share his vision of a future peace ensured by robots, Coldyron calls a meeting with the top police scientists. After a brief summary of his plans, he opens the floor for questions, and then shoots down each and every concern. Worried that a robotic police officer is simply impractical? Nonsense. R.O.T.O.R. is the epitome of pragmatism. Wondering about the potential dangers of employing R.O.T.O.R.? Not to worry. As Coldyron explains it, “This combat chassis has been issued a prime directive.” Feel better? Even if Coldyron’s cryptic words still have the brass skittish, there’s nothing to be concerned about for the time being: R.O.T.O.R. is still decades away from being a legitimate force on the streets, a timeframe which will no doubt be adequate to quell any concerns. Or so Coldyron thinks.

Summoned to appear before his superior, the Captain is told without ceremony that the powers behind R.O.T.O.R.’s funding are getting impatient, and need a working product up and running 60 days. Not years, days. Though he tries to explain that such an order is impossible to fulfill, Coldyron’s words fall on deaf ears. Instead of getting to work, however, Coldyron gets mad. “I quit,” he says, and storms off. Of course, with so much already invested in the project, the work must go on, with or without the good Captain. Within moments, Coldyron’s incompetent assistant is summoned and given the order: deliver R.O.T.O.R. in two months, or else. Tripping over himself in hopes of fulfilling this irrational request, the assistant throws a few switches he shouldn’t have and R.O.T.O.R. is inadvertently activated.

Barley twenty minutes into this audaciously awful and astonishingly entertaining RoboCop rehash, Captain Coldyron had established himself as one of my favorite characters in the history of cinema. Not only is his tough-guy demeanor easy to appreciate, his constant ability to spout out inane bits of cinematic wisdom are nonpareil. Whether contentedly contemplating the “buttery morning sunlight” painting “a golden glow through the ranch house windows” or tossing out angry similes at his boss (“You fire me and I’ll make more noise than two skeletons making love in a tin coffin”), Coldyron has an undeniable way with words. By the time he gets to his coup de grâce, it seems pretty clear that there’s nothing Coldyron can’t articulate:

Now, I’ve got to wonder: Were we playing God breathing life into our artificial Adam? Or have we lost sight of paradise? What was it Milton said? ‘Did I request thee maker from my clay to mould me a man? Did I solicit these from darkness to promote me?’ Is it his fault he is what he is, or is it ours?

Wow. Poet, fighter, lover, Coldyron is the very essence of what it means to be a Renaissance man. If this film were nothing more than 90 minutes of watching Coldyron go about his day-to-day existence, it would still be worth watching. As it is, we have about ten-minutes worth of the quiet life, Coldyron-style, and the rest devoted to a rogue robot and Coldyron’s attempts to save the day. But rest assured: whether single-handedly putting the kibosh on a convenience store robbery – in slow motion – or teaming up with Dr. Steele (Coldyron’s female alter ego, with a skunk-mullet) for a tag-team fist fight with the killer robot, Coldyron the action hero is every bit as memorable as Coldyron the wordsmith.

Despite a thin narrative and a preponderance of clumsy overdubs, groan inducing one-liners, and interminable camera pans (now let’s see what else is on Coldyron’s kitchen counter), R.O.T.O.R. endures as a highly memorable and constantly entertaining film, immortalized by the legendary aura of Coldyron. Whether we’re watching him analyze, fight, dream, or soliloquize, the mere presence of the Captain guarantees that time with R.O.T.O.R. is time well spent.

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