Friday, March 27, 2015

"Chappie" Review - Written by Tim Hellman

'CHAPPIE': Four and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

The new science fiction action/drama flick from Neil Blomkamp; about a police droid, in the near future, that gains consciousness. Blomkamp directed and co-wrote the movie, with his wife Terri Thatchell (who also co-wrote 'DISTRICT 9', with her husband). It's based on Blomkamp's 2004 two minute short film 'TETRA VAAL', and it also features a similar robot design to his 2006 short 'TEMPBOT'. The movie stars Blomkamp's usual partner in crime Sharlto Copley, as the voice of the robot, and it also costars Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Brandon Auret, Yolandi Visser and Ninja (Ninja and Visser are first time actors, from the South African hip-hop group 'Die Antwoord'). I love the film and think it's a near masterpiece.

The movie is set in Johannesburg, in the near future, at a time when violent crime is near obsolete; due to a new robotic police force. When a small gang (played by Ninja, Visser and Cantillo) find themselves in a huge amount of debt, to a local crime lord (Auret), they decide to kidnap the designer of the police droids, Deon Wilson (Patel). They want to force Deon to shut down all the robots; so they can commit a big heist, to raise the money they need. What they don't realize is that Wilson has stolen one of his droids himself, from his employers, in a plan to give it actual consciousness. When the robot comes alive, the criminals then steal the droid, from his maker, and kick Deon out of their hide out. They name it Chappie and devise a plan to have the living droid help them with their big crime. At the same time a rival engineer, named Vincent Moore (Jackman), wants to sabotage the gang's plans; in an effort to capitalize on them and gain funding for his own mechanized killing machines.

The movie borrows a lot from other popular sci-fi movies; most notably 'SHORT CIRCUIT' and of course 'ROBOCOP' (more so the 2014 remake). Still it has it's own unique feel and, like all of Blomkamp's movies, it's full of great social commentary and intriguing, well developed, characters. I love Chappie, as a classic robot character, and I think Ninja and Visser make great acting debuts as well; in this movie. Patel is always likable (and very relatable), Weaver once again does what she does best (playing a domineering woman, in yet another sci-fi movie) and it's awesome to see Jackman as an obsessive 'religious nut' bad guy! Blomkamp's directing is once again very stylized and always beautiful to look at. It's also cool to see such an excessively violent (R rated) kid's movie; that's what it feels like to me! I don't think it's quite as classic as 'DISTRICT 9', but it is a slight improvement over 'ELYSIUM'. It's definitely a little ways from a sci-fi masterpiece, of it's own, but I still absolutely love it!

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