Monday, March 9, 2015
CHAPPIE: Dev Patel, Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, directed by Neill Blomkamp (120 min.)
Chappie is a mixture of just about every other "robot" movie around, existing somewhere between Robocop and Short Circuit. It exists between those films in theory, but resides below both of them in quality. Come to think of it, I'd put Robocop 2 and Short Circuit 2 above Chappie, a mean-spirited, cynical mess of tone that is so aggressively hateful it created anxiety in me at times. Maybe Neill Bomkamp had a good movie somewhere in the early stages of development, but somewhere along the way things fell apart in just about every conceivable way.
When Deon's request to use an out-of-commission robot to experiment with his self-aware program is shot down by the corporations' boss, played by Sigourney Weaver (as she continues her string of thankless, spare roles), Deon steals the robot. But he is then kidnapped by Ninja and Yolandi, despicable criminals who are also pure idiots. Ninja and Deon are looking for... wait for it... one last score to settle their debts with another deplorable South African character. Their plan is to steal Deon's "remote control" to the robot police force which will help them... I'm getting winded.
Then, after he is beaten with rocks and set on fire (after it is established he is basically a child, so, put those images together and see how you feel) Chappie is picked up and tortured in a follow up scene of senseless brutality by Vincent Moore.
Oh, wait! There's Vincent Moore, idiot number forty in this film, played by Hugh Jackman with a mullet and a Steve Irwin costume (because he's Australian, get it?). Vincent has his own version of a police robot, a giant machine that operates by reading human minds. But his program has failed over and over, despite his devious attempts to succeed and his endless peering at Deon over cubicle walls while he holds his rugby ball (he's Australian, get it?). I bet his program didn't work because the machine is the size of an office building and it takes an airplane hangar to house and operate a single unit. Also, you would think when all the robots are shut down and chaos ensues in the streets that he might be the prime suspect, but that would require a character with a brain.
Consider this scene: Vincent desperately needs a usb key from Deon, so in order to try and get it he smashes Deon's head into his desk and threatens him with a gun. In the office. Full of coworkers. But, hey he was just kidding, no hard feelings, right? Seriously, the entire robot police force is sabotaged and nobody even thinks to look at the guy who threatened the creator of the robots with a firearm in front of an office full of people.
The final showdown has all of these characters interacting in an assault on the senses that is such an overwhelming barrage of noise and nonsense that it's hard to focus on any one thing, and impossible to care. The screenplay bounces from one tone to the next, and lacks any of the satirical notes that might make it actually work. A sharp satirical angle say, like, Robocop, would have been a smart play. Instead, it's paint-by-numbers dialogue and nauseating predictability.
Now, Chappie himself was a cool robot, with some funny moments, but in a movie that is sometimes needlessly violent, aggressively cynical, and lacking any real identity, the humor is easily forgotten. Just as this film should be, immediately.