In a film that can only be described as a more serious version of The Toxic Avenger, They Call Me Jeeg Robot follows a petty criminal who is accidentally granted super strength after falling in a river filled with radioactive waste.
They Call Me Jeeg Robot arrives at the perfect time to zap something fresh into the superhero genre which, quite honestly, is running out of steam. I love Marvel and DC as much as the next film fan, but are the films not feeling a tiny bit predictable by now? Suicide Squad tried – and catastrophically failed – to give the genre an edge by making the bad guys the “heroes,” but Jeeg Robot does it ten times better. Jeeg Robot’s hero is Enzo, a petty thief; a selfish, rude and self-centred man who lives in a rundown apartment surrounding by porn videos and pots of pudding. He’s the perfect antihero and begins this twisted fairytale as the one in need of saving, but finds himself falling into the character of Alessia’s “Hiro”.
Alessia is a troubled young woman and believes Enzo is the personification of the hero of a Japanese cartoon. The similarities between the events in the show and the real world are spookily similar, but it’s clear she has difficulty distinguishing between truth and reality. Her inability to keep a grasp on the world around her is a touching characterisation that paints her as a damsel in distress that Enzo AKA Jeeg Robot must save. Honestly, this female depiction is not the most empowering, but the film’s comment on a male-dominated genre paints this portrayal as a knowing dig at the stereotypes present in most action films – not just those featuring heroes with powers. After witnessing the death of Alessia’s father, Enzo’s guilt forces him to reluctantly care for her, but soon finds that he is in a complicated relationship where he is uncertain of what he means to her. In a similar fashion to Mathilda in Luc Besson’s Leon, Alessia latches onto Enzo in the hope that they can track down her father and save him from “The Cave of Fire.”
In true comic book form, we have a dastardly villain at the heart of this story called “The Gypsy,” who is a crazy gangster and it is up to Enzo to take him down. Played remarkably by Luca Marinelli, The Gypsy walks a thin line between reality and fantasy himself, showing that the blurring of these two dimensions is of key importance to the film. He is a borderline maniac and it’s absolutely brilliant to watch him throw rocks at kids spraying graffiti, send dogs to murder his enemies and generally act like a spoiled kid throwing his toys out of the pram. In fact, he bares an uncanny resemblance to Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens or for those familiar with Nordic thrillers, he could easily be the twin of Greven from In Order of Disappearance. He’s equally as hilarious as he is terrifying, becoming a hyper-real and greatly exaggerated villain purely conjured for the audience’s enjoyment.
Jeeg Robot is a hyperbolic dream of superheroes and villains, but is more marvellous than Marvel because it does not rely on CGI, special effects or easter eggs to entertain. Instead, the film flies with its unique identity and soars with its grounding in reality and appreciation for the fantastical, crafting a feature that teeters on the edge of brilliance. The film’s literal and figuratively rough edges drown the film in a darkness that DC wishes it could so effortlessly grasp. The dark tones of the film’s colour palette emphasise the story’s interest in being more than a bit of fun, reminding the audience that this story has the heart and smarts to be more than just a simple tale of Good vs. Evil. There is a satisfying blend of humour and sincerity that will keep the audience on its toes, never knowing what may be hiding around the corner and lifting the film above its super competition.
They Call Me Jeeg Robot is a truly fantastic tale of fantasy that thrives on taking the superhero genre and molding it for its own unique devices. What we’re left with is a superbly entertaining feature that bursts with personality, comedy and action, begging you to watch it over and over.