June 9, 2017 They Call Me Jeeg (Movie Review)
Heroes are not born, they are made. Having superpowers does not automatically make a person wonderful or heroic. It is something inside of them that awakens and changes the way they see the world. They Call Me Jeeg, aka Lo chiamavano Jeeg Robot, from Italian Director Gabriele Mainetti, shows the viewer the evolution of a man least likely to be heroic become that hero. A massive success in Italy back in 2016, the film arrived in the U.S. via Uncork’d Entertainment on May 2, 2017 on Digital/VOD.
Enzo (Claudio Santamaria: Casino Royale 2006, Diaz-Don’t Clean Up This Blood 2012) is a small time thief. He jumps into the Tiber River in order to avoid being captured from a couple of men he just stole from. The place that he decides to jump is on top of several hazardous chemical barrels that begin to leak after he knocks one over. After he escapes, he meets up with Sergio (Stefano Ambrogi: Horse Fever: The Mandrake Sting 2002, The Call 2006) to pick up some drugs for Zingaro (Luca Marinelli: The Great Beauty 2013, Don’t Be Bad 2015), former reality star turned small time crime boss. The deal goes bad and Sergio is killed. Enzo is thrown off the ninth story of a building, but somehow walks away without a scratch. He quickly realizes that he also has super strength.
He runs into Sergio’s daughter, Alessia (Ilenia Pastorelli: debut film). Alessia is mentally unstable since the death of her mother. She is obsessed with the Japanese anime from the 1970s, Steel Jeeg. Zingaro and his gang shows up looking for Sergio and begins to harass Alessia since she says she does not know where he is. Enzo covers his face and decides to save her from the men. This action does two things. The first is he has angered Zingaro and put himself on his radar. The second is Alessia is now obsessed with him. She believes that he is Jeeg, the superhero robot of her beloved show.
Zingaro and his gang are planning a big heist. He owes another crime family money. Enzo continues to get in his way. He wants to either make Enzo a partner or to kill him. He, like Alessia, becomes obsessed with him. The entire film sets up a power struggle with Enzo versus the crime boss. Zingaro is the villain to Enzo’s blossoming hero. He is the only thing standing in Enzo’s way of living a quiet life. Zingaro will not stop hunting Enzo and Alessia down until he gets what he wants. This all leads up to an explosive and potentially tragic climax.
Enzo is not really a good person, but he is not necessarily a bad one either. Enzo steals to have enough just to survive. He does not seem to have any real motivation or higher aspirations for anything. In fact, after stealing money, all he buys is porn and pudding cups. He is a loner who is clearly uncomfortable around people in general. Happy is not an adjective that could describe him, rather, he is just surviving with the little that he knows.
Like most heroes, there is always something that drives them; something that pushes them into doing the good deeds that they are known for. With Enzo, Alessia is the driving force. She is a beautiful woman, but with the mentality of a teenager. She tells him that he cannot have the powers he has and just sit by and watch bad things to happen. Enzo does not seem to want to buy into her madness, but he also does not want to take advantage of her. As the film progresses and his love for her grows, his mind begins to change. Without any words, Santamaria is able to portray the second Enzo understands her words and becomes the hero she always insists that he is. The absence of Alessia’s presence would probably not have created the same outcome. He would not have had the motivation to change.
They Call Me Jeeg has a lot going on with several different subplots and stories. They all work almost seamlessly together to form one cohesive plot that leaves the viewer wanting more. What will happen to Enzo as time goes on? Who will be the next villain to try and take him down? What other kind of superpowers might pop up? Are his powers permanent or will they dissolve as the hazardous materials leave his body? Even if all of these questions are never answered, this film can still stand alone, although, in an interview with CrypticRock, Mainetti stated a sequel is in the works. A follow up is not needed, though would be fun to see more of the evolution.
A lot of superhero movies are extravagant and focus more on the powers than the actual hero that has them. They Call Me Jeeg focuses more on Enzo with his powers just something that is now an extra part of him. Like most, Enzo and the world he lives in is complicated. In this film, the complications allow the viewer to slowly build their allegiance to him. This film takes a more serious approach to the classic superhero background story trope, but it does so in a way that is thoughtful and interesting. Enzo is an every-man with or without the powers and that is a compelling watch. CrypticRock gives The Call Me Jeeg 4.5 out of 5 stars.