“You probably don’t think I’m a very nice guy.” — Clarence Boddicker, RoboCop
It’s not even two minutes after meeting Clarence Boddicker in RoboCop that the guy throws one of his wounded compatriots out of the back of a moving truck, having the civility to ask him if he can fly first. That one moment sums up the man perfectly and gives you an idea of what to expect from him.
Kurtwood Smith seems to be having the time of his life playing this role, and if there were ever truth to the claim that the bad guys are generally more fun, rarely has it been more evident than it is here. Smith plays Boddicker as a pure sociopath, a man to whom violence is simply a part of the everyday routine. The thing is, he’s such a good spirited chap that his general demeanor comes off as genuinely infectious, even when he’s in the midst of doing something seriously fucked up to someone. With his unassuming looks and a pair of glasses that only add to the man’s menace by making him look less threatening, he’s a pitch perfect caricature of over-the-top villainy, a perfect fit for the satirical comic book world that Paul Verhoeven expertly crafted.
Early on, in one of the film’s well known and more horrifying scenes, he casually speaks to Peter Weller’s soon to be deceased Officer Murphy in such a way that you’d be forgiven to think upon first viewing that he was interested in getting to know the poor, doomed officer and that, hey, maybe he really isn’t such a bad guy after all. The guy he had thrown off the truck, you know … maybe that was just a fluke, a hiccup in the man’s everyday modus operandi. What a charming smile. And that sense of humor! Maybe, just maybe, our cop friend will walk away without a scratch, right?
Well, he lets him know what kind of person he is alright because, as most already know, cops don’t like Clarence Boddicker and he sure as hell doesn’t like cops. Murphy’s right hand is turned to liquid after a well-placed shotgun blast by Mr. Boddicker and then he’s turned over to Boddicker’s goons who unload everything they have into the guy, miraculously not killing him. When all is said and done, Boddicker silences his cries of pain with a shot to the head from a .50 Desert Eagle. The rest, as we all know is history, with Murphy being revived, revamped and reshipped by OCP to the masses as RoboCop.
It’s the combination of inherent sadism with this bookish, normal looking guy exterior that makes Boddicker such an interesting character. He’s literally that much of a bastard that you can feel his presence when he’s not on screen, a testament to both the character himself and Smith’s acting. The guy has no respect for anyone, whether it’s the guy he works for or his own cronies. You’ve gotta love a guy who congratulates his buddy on the purchase of a new car by blowing it up with one shot from an experimental military rifle.
Thankfully, the film does right by him, giving him more than enough tasty one-liners to belt out and a death scene befitting such a despicable individual. Case in point regarding one-liners, after Robocop exercises some admirable restraint and hauls Boddicker’s ass to Central Booking instead of murdering him outright, Boddicker hocks a bloody loogie onto the captain’s desk and simply says, “Just gimme my fuckin’ phone call.”
It’s a rare thing when the combination of performance, character and implementation all hit that perfect note and in this case, few notes have ever sounded sweeter. Clarence Boddicker is without a doubt, one of the greatest movie villains of all time and more than a worthy addition to any list of such that you can dream up.
Anyone interested in hearing more about this character from Kurtwood Smith himself should watch the related featurette on the 20th Anniversary Edition DVD of the film. It’s easily one of the best features on the disc.