English Title: They Call Me Jeeg
Original Title: Lo chiamavano Jeeg Robot
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Comedy
Director: Gabriele Mainetti
Cinematography: Michele D’Attanasio
Gianluca Di Gennaro
An superhero iteration from Italian cinema, THEY CALL ME JEEG is director debut from Gabriele Mainetti. Our reluctant hero is a small-time criminal Enzo (Santamaria), who gains superhuman strength after falling into a barrel of radioactive waste in the Tiber river when chased by police in the snappy opening sequence.
The story might be transposed to a new location, Rome’s seedy outskirt where criminal act runs rampant, yet the narrative structure is more or less commonplace like its many a predecessor, Enzo must adhere to the same road-to-redemption drill to voluntarily take on his responsibility of helping those who are in extremis, although the first thing occurring to Enzo’s mind is to rob an ATM machine once he has realized what he is capable of doing. (Btw, ATM machine will automatically deface the notes with ink once it is opened by force, everyday, you live and learn!)
It is interesting to posit Enzo as a misanthropic deadbeat, feeding off from pornography and self-loathing, so he needs a conduit to lead him to wear that mask and cape, and here comes Alessia (Pastorelli, a screen debutante), the mentally impaired girl living downstairs with her father Sergio (Ambrogi), she is possessed with the popular Japanese manga STEEL JEEG and insists that Enzo is the incarnation of its hero Hiroshi Shiba. A dissonance occurs when we realize Enzo and Sergio are acquaintance-in-crimes, yet, the way the film introduces Enzo to Alessia gives us the impression that they just know each other for the first time. When Sergio is dispatched by a drug mule, the story predictably binds Enzo and Alessia together, and piles on woeful back-stories to the damsel-in-distress in order to attain sympathy, both from Enzo and audience,the result is 50/50.
The problem is that Alessia, played with verve by Pastorelli nonetheless, vacillates in her personalities at the convenience of the plot, she appears to be obtuse enough to bury herself in her infantile fantasy (all she wants is a princess dress) so as not to question the fount of Enzo’s superpower and just play along, in other occasions, lucid enough to invigorate Enzo’s sense of justice and affection, not to mention gallantly stabbing her kidnapper at a critical moment. So what is the real deal of her? We would never get a full picture since she has one last mission to perform – a dramatic exit to kick-start our hero’s conscience.
The chief villain here is Zingaro aka. the Gypsy, a crazed psychopath play by Marinelli, the alumnus from Saverio Costanzo’s THE SOLITUDE OF PRIME NUMBERS (2010), with unbridled bravado, to counter Enzo’s more muted personality. Taking reference from today’s spiked fame from YouTube and reality show, the Gypsy has a maniacal hunger for fame,and blatantly takes a leaf out of the Joker’s book, the pomp of wanton volatility and cartoonish grandstanding is duly underlay, only to be undermined in the eleventh hour by the much hyped blast, betrays that the movie’s budget runs out quickly. Also, it is hardly not to notice, theoretically, our hero’s nemesis could fall upon the shoulders of the equally cold-blooded alpha gangster Nunzia (Truppo), but as often as not, there is still no room for women to break that glass ceiling as far as superhero fares are concerned.
At any rate, THEY CALL ME JEEG is to say the least, a competent genre piece, might not be innovative as we wanted it to be, yet, it at least plays up the pipe dream from a worm’s eye-view, an ordinary type who is endowed with something extraordinary, still gets a rueful sigh when he finds out the rehabilitation of a chopped pinkie toe is just his wishful thinking.