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Serpico vs. Robocop
1973 / 1987
Two generational films about law, order, and virtue. Serpico is a movie about the limits and obligations of agency: a cop tries to stay honest in his little corner of the world, and the implications of a little honesty force a great truth into the universe. There is no agency at all in Robocop, a movie about a policeman’s corpse tumbling through a system corrupt at every level. In both movies, the central character stands in for Christ. Both men are surrounded by a storm of violence. Both movies stand in for their moments in history.
Frank Serpico, in the moment when he realizes that there is no authority to turn to, lashes out in misdirected anger at his girlfriend - the collapse of his faith in basic institutions has precipitated a personality crisis and made him a monster. Murphy from Robocop is a process more than a person - he has no personality, there is nothing in the world of the movie to have faith in, and he is a monster throughout.
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