They Call Me Jeeg Robot (Lo chiamavano Jeeg Robot) (2015) [San Diego Italian Film Festivale 2016]

jeeg-robotA small time criminal, Enzo, jumps in the Tiber River to escape his pursuers.  Little does he know, the river hides a secret and he gains super strength.  With this new power, he starts off looking out only for himself until he gets to know his neighbor Alessia. Written by Nicola Guaglianone and Menotti and directed by Gabriele Mainetti, They Call Me Jeeg Robot is an interesting take on the superhero myth and how a person who is at the basis bad would take the powers and run with them.  The characters built here are majorly flawed people, starting with the hero, Enzo Ceccotti who finds himself with this super strength while also being completely broke and in need of something to get him out of the hole he dug for himself.

He’s not a good person when the film starts, but through meeting a good, innocent person he finds himself questioning his way and what he should be doing with his life.  Of course, he has hiccups along the way and makes mistakes, even bad ones, but this is part of what builds him as an interesting character.  His nemesis, a small time gangster, has a need for power that will lead him to doing just about anything.  This contrasts well with Enzo’s evolution towards good and trying to be a better human. The cast of actors chosen for this are good.  As Enzo, Claudio Santamaria plays the conflicted man with a good amount of gusto and nuance, giving the man a deeply flawed character but also a need to be better, especially after he starts caring for his neighbor.  As the neighbor Alessia, Ilenia Pastorelli does fantastic as an innocent adult with mental issues who has been abused by everyone in her life and who eventually sees Enzo’s goodness even when he is not so good.

She gives a performance that is subtle in places and in your face in others which gives her character a lot of depth.  She handles the mental issues Alessia has with class and a respectful and delicate touch.  Her performance is the one that roots the whole film in emotions and grabs the audience to better bring them in.  As the lead bad guy who turns completely evil, Luca Marinelli plays it a bit cartoony but in the setting and the action it works.  His character lends himself to a more effusive interpretation which Marinelli gives with glee. These characters evolve in a Roma that is not the one audiences usually see in films.  This is not the glamorous or tourist friendly city.  It’s the suburbs, where people who are not rich live and try to survive, where crime thrives, and where explosions in the city and drug deals near their homes are not something that worries them as they are too busy trying to afford food to put on the table.

This Roma is shown with its wrinkles and its dirt, its people and its crimes.  Enzo lives in a building that used to be great, a sort of project where he grew up and where he never thought he’d get out of.   This is all shown in beautiful images of it like one would expect the nicer parts of the city to be shown.  The cinematography by Michele D’Attanasio showcases this suburb with its issues and its beauty.  It shows where these people live without flinching, without trying to just show the nice parts.  It shows everything as it is.  The scenes in the closed down attraction part are just beautiful in their sadness. The special effects, as there are some but not as much as most superhero films have are decent, but not great.  These are still working in the film and kept to a minimum.

They are done by Emanuele DeLuca and team and they do as they can with the budget they have.  As the effects are kept to minimum, they do not distract.  They are not terrible, but they are not the best they could be, they are decent but nothing to write home about. They Call Me Jeeg Robot is an interesting take on superheroes and superhero mythology as well as on criminals and what really motivates people to do what they do.  The film is well shot and the performances keep the attention and make viewers want to see more.