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…
THE VERDICT: 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