After the failure of the Robocop 2 program, OCP is on the verge of bankruptcy after a series of failed business plans and drop of stocks, and are now struggling with their plans to create the new Delta City. To speed up the process, OCP creates an armed force called the Urban Rehabilitators, nicknamed "Rehabs," under the command of Paul McDaggett (John Castle). Ostensibly its purpose is to combat rising crime in Old Detroit, augmenting the ranks of the Detroit Police Department in apprehending violent criminals. In reality, it has been set up to forcibly relocate the residents of Cadillac Heights. Nikko, a Japanese-American computer whiz kid, loses her parents in the process.
The police force is gradually superseded by the Rehabs, and violent crime begins to spiral out of control. The Delta City dream of the former OCP CEO, "Old Man", lives on with the help of the Japanese Kanemitsu Corporation, which has bought a controlling stake in OCP and is trying to finance the plan. Kanemitsu (Mako), Chairman of the Kanemitsu Corporation, sees the potential in the citywide redevelopment, and moves forward with the plans to remove the current citizens in order to create Delta City. The company develops and uses its own ninja androids called "Otomo" to help McDaggett and the new OCP president, The CEO (Rip Torn) overcome the resistance of anti-OCP militia forces.
RoboCop (Burke) and partner Anne Lewis (Allen) try to defend civilians from the Rehabs one night, but Lewis is killed by McDaggett. Unable to fight back because of his "Fourth Directive", members of a resistance movement composed of Nikko and residents from Cadillac Heights save RoboCop and he joins them. Due to damage sustained in the shoot-out, RoboCop's systems efficiency plummets, and he asks the resistance to summon Dr. Lazarus, one of the scientists who created him. Upon arrival she begins to treat RoboCop, deleting the Fourth Directive in the process.
After recovering from his injuries, RoboCop conducts a one-man campaign against the Rehabs and OCP. He finds McDaggett and attempts to subdue him, but McDaggett escapes. McDaggett then learns the location of the resistance fighters' base from a disgruntled resistance member (Stephen Root). The Rehabs attack and most of the resistance members are either killed or taken prisoner. RoboCop returns to the rebel base to find it abandoned. One Otomo unit arrives and attacks him. RoboCop experiences another power drain and his left arm and auto gun is destroyed, but eventually he overcomes his opponent with his arm-mounted gun. Nikko infiltrates the OCP building and assists a captured Lazarus in broadcasting an improvised video, revealing OCP's responsibility for the criminality in the city and implicating them in the removal and killing of the Cadillac Heights residents. The broadcast causes OCP's stock to plunge, driving the company into financial ruin and bankruptcy.
McDaggett decides to execute an all-out strike against Cadillac Heights with the help of the Detroit police, but the police officers, enraged at the company's sadistic ways, refuse to comply and instead defect to the resistance in order to get revenge for Lewis and their salaries and pensions, escalating the rebellion against OCP into a full-scale city war. As a result, McDaggett turns to hiring street gangs and hooligans to assist with his plans.
Having heard Lazarus' broadcast, RoboCop provides aerial support for the entrenched resistance forces, using a jet pack prototype the resistance had stolen during an earlier raid on an armory. He then proceeds to the OCP building and confronts the waiting McDaggett. RoboCop is then attacked, and nearly defeated, by two Otomo robots. Nikko and Lazarus succeed in reprogramming them using a wireless link from a laptop computer forcing them to attack each other. The Otomos' self-destruct system activates, forcing RoboCop to flee with Nikko and Lazarus. The flaming discharge from the jet-pack immobilizes McDaggett, leaving him to perish in the blast.
As Old Detroit is being cleaned up, Kanemitsu arrives on the scene. He fires the OCP president and orders the shutdown of OCP and cancellation of its Detroit operations, before finally bowing to RoboCop and his group in deference.Robert Burke as RoboCop
Jill Hennessy as Dr. Marie Lazarus
Remy Ryan as Nikko
Nancy Allen as Anne Lewis
John Castle as Paul McDaggett
Bruce Locke as Otomo
Rip Torn as The CEO
C. C. H. Pounder as Bertha
Mako as Kanemitsu
Robert DoQui as Sergeant Warren Reed
Stanley Anderson as Zack
Stephen Root as Coontz
Daniel von Bargen as Moreno
Felton Perry as Donald Johnson
Bradley Whitford as Fleck
Eva LaRue as News Anchor Debbie Dix
The film was directed by Fred Dekker, a director primarily known for cult horror films (Night of the Creeps, The Monster Squad). Popular graphic novelist Frank Miller returned to write the screenplay for the film. Still optimistic that he could make an impression in Hollywood, Miller accepted the job of writing RoboCop 3, hoping that some of his excised ideas would make it into the second sequel. Major themes of the plot were taken from Miller's original (rejected) draft of RoboCop 2. Disillusioned after finding that his work was even more drastically altered than before, Miller left Hollywood until the 2005 adaptation of his work Sin City. “[Working on RoboCop 2 and 3] I learned the same lesson,” Miller said in 2005. “Don’t be the writer. The director’s got the power. The screenplay is a fire hydrant, and there’s a row of dogs around the block waiting for it.” Miller's original screenplay for RoboCop 2, a source for ideas used in Robocop 3, was later turned into a nine-part comic book series called Frank Miller's RoboCop.
The star of the previous films, Peter Weller, did not reprise the role, as he was starring in Naked Lunch. Robert John Burke was signed to play the cyborg character instead. The RoboCop suit Burke wore in the movie was originally built for RoboCop 2 (1990). Since Burke was taller than Weller, he complained that wearing it was painful after a short time. Other important casting changes had to be made for the third film. The actor who played the OCP CEO (a.k.a. "Old Man") from the previous two films, Dan O'Herlihy, was absent from this film. The cast changes meant that Nancy Allen, Robert DoQui, Felton Perry, Mario Machado and Angie Bolling are the only supporting cast actors to appear in all three films.
Recognizing that Robocop's fan base consisted primarily of children, Orion Pictures cut down on the graphic violence that was seen as the defining characteristic of the first two films.
RoboCop 3 went into production soon after RoboCop 2 was complete. Initially scheduled for release in the summer of 1992, RoboCop 3 would languish on the shelf until the following year as Orion Pictures went through bankruptcy and was bought out. The delay caused most video game adaptations to be released one year prior to the film. RoboCop 3 earned $4.3 million on its opening weekend, ending its run with $10.6 million domestically, far short of recouping its estimated $22 million production budget.
After RoboCop 2's score which was composed by Leonard Rosenman, the RoboCop original composer Basil Poledouris returned to do the soundtrack score and brought back many of the RoboCop themes that were missing from RoboCop 2.
RoboCop 3 received negative reviews by critics, for its plot and several cinematic malfunctions. The film was also a box office bomb only earning $10 million on a $22 million budget. Rotten Tomatoes gives RoboCop 3 a score of 3% based on 30 reviews, with an average score of 3.1 out of 10.
Richard Harrington from The Washington Post says the film is "hardly riveting and often it's downright silly. The sets and effects betray their downsized budget."
Chicago Sun Times critic Roger Ebert gave the film 1½ stars, disputing the characters' longevity and comparing the series to the Detroit car manufacturing industry. "Why do they persist in making these retreads? Because 'RoboCop' is a brand name, I guess, and this is this year's new model. It's an old tradition in Detroit to take an old design and slap on some fresh chrome."
David Nusair from Reel Film Reviews rates the film as 2½ stars, stating, "The best one could hope for is a movie that's not an ordeal to sit through, and on that level, RoboCop 3 certainly excels. When placed side-by-side with the original, the film doesn't quite hold up. But, at the very least, RoboCop 3 works as a popcorn movie—something part two couldn't even manage."
Other points of criticism in this movie include curtailing the graphic violence of the first two films (deliberately done in order to be more family friendly material), less humor, and the absence of Peter Weller in the title role (replaced by Robert John Burke).
In retrospect, the director, Fred Dekker said: "There’s a misconception about this movie that the studio steamrolled me into doing something I wasn’t comfortable with. The truth is, anything wrong with it is entirely my fault. I had a great cast, a great crew, the support of my producers and the studio, and some of the greatest special effects wizards of all time. I think it really comes down to the script. It was a story by the brilliant Frank Miller, who wrote the first draft—but in the final analysis, it was the wrong story and the wrong script for what an audience wanted from that character. The PG-13 rating didn’t help, since the character’s first two outings were extremely violent and satirical, and that’s really the arena that character belongs in—not a “family” movie." He also said: "Nonetheless, RoboCop 3 was the most enjoyable movie-making experience I've had and, for me, the most accomplished work I've done as a director. In other words, if the movie blows, there's nobody to blame but me."