CHAPPIE (Mexico/USA/15A/120mins)
Directed by Neill Blomkamp. Starring Sharlto Copley, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Dev Patel, Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Jose Pablo Contillo.

THE PLOT: Sometime in the not-too-distant future, and Johannesburg’s rampant crime rate has been tampered down considerably by the Travaal Corporation’s SCOUT program of robotic cops. Which makes their designer, Deon Wilson (Patel), something of the golden boy in CEO Michelle Bradley’s eyes. The high success rate of the SCOUT robots has also kept the alternative robot cops designed by fellow Travaal designer Vincent Moore (Jackman) firmly on hold, his MOOSE creation sitting in storage as his development budget is cut even further. Wilson soon has his own troubles though. Firstly, his breakthrough on Artificial Intelligence is shut down by Bradley, and so he decides to smuggle a junk model home for a little Frankenstein fun. On the way though, he’s kidnapped by budding gangster supremos Ninja (Ninja) Yo-Landi (Visser) and America (Contillo), the resulting caring sharing, childlike killer robot – nicknamed Chappie – quickly a pawn in a very bloody war…

Based on Blomkamp’s 2004 short TETRA VAAL, and co-written by the DISTRICT 9 director with his regular working partner (and missus) Terri Tatchell, on paper, CHAPPIE has the smell of scrap metal. Pretty much ROBOCOP in the hot, dizzying, disorientating South African sun, CHAPPIE’s tone is all over the place. One minute, social satire, the next, slapstick comedy. Which, come to think of it, sounds a bit like the original ROBOCOP.

The bulk of the humour here though is of the dark variety, the childlike Chappie quickly finding himself used and abused, and mutilated, torched, amputated and manipulated into committing brutal crimes. Think BABE: PIG IN THE CITY. With guns. Lots of guns. The black comedy would be forgiveable too if CHAPPIE kept its plot together, but so much of the twists and turns here ring false. Even for sci-fi.

Also, what’s with all the ridiculously bad haircuts? I know that, as Die Antwoord (basically South Africa’s answer to The Rubberbandits), Ninja and Yo-Landi have been touting the DELIVERANCE look for years, but did Jackman have to sign up too?
Review by Paul Byrne 

Review by Paul Byrne
2.0Twists ring false
  • filmbuff2011

    Neill Blomkamp’s third film Chappie could be described as Short Circuit meets Robocop, but it’s far more than that. In the very near future, South Africa’s police force buys robotic policemen called Scouts from weapons manufacturer Michelle (Sigourney Weaver). #22 is damaged by an RPG during a gang fight and is scheduled to be scrapped, so his designer Deon (Dev Patel) sees an opportunity to install new software to give it consciousness. That is, until he and #22 are kidnapped by gang members Yo-Landi and Ninja (from rap group Die Antwoord). They rename it Chappie (after a South African brand of chewing gum), but Chappie is like a child. It has to learn gradually about human behavoiur – and that includes the harshness of the world around it. It achieves true consciousness – but all that comes under threat when rival robotics designer Vince (Hugh Jackman) seeks to shut down Deon’s robots, including Chappie… Certain patterns can be detected in the work of South African director Neill Blomkamp: a sci-fi setting, a gritty but sympathetic ground-level view of street life in his home country, a love of technology and future worlds, the fusion of man and machine. No wonder his recent sketches for a possible Alien 5 resulted in 20th Century Fox offering him the chance to make the first true Alien film in nearly 20 years. Chappie combines the best of his previous films District 9 and Elysium to tell the story of a robot’s evolution from a child to an adult capable of deciding its own future. Blomkamp injects (or rather installs) a lot of humour into Chappie’s journey. It imitates the gangsters around it, but there’s also a warmth and empathy in it which is often missing in robot films. The danger of anthropomorphising a robot is that it can end up too cuddly and cute like Short Circuit. Chappie doesn’t go down that route too much, instead focusing on some barn-storming action sequences in which Chappie faces off against the ED-209-style Moose. The mo-cap and voice work by Blomkamp’s friend and frequent star Sharlto Copley is really good here. Chappie doesn’t go into any great depth in terms of exploring the whole human / robot interface (see Ex Machina for a more intellectual debate on that). Look too closely and you might poke holes in it. But overall Chappie is a thrilling, funny, action-packed ride of a film. That’s three good films out of three for Blomkamp now. Alien 5 sounds like a mouth-watering, or rather acid-dripping, prospect. ****

  • Martin

    I wanted chappie to be so much better than it was. I loved district 9 and elysium but this film left me cold. It doesn’t know if it wants to be lighthearted or serious and fails on both. It’s also the same over as district 9 but just with robots. The themes from short circuit and robocop don’t work very well either. I can’t recommend this movie as much as I’d love to