THEY CALL ME JEEG ROBOT
(Lo Chiamavano Jeeg Robot)
They Call Me Jeeg Robot has been conceived as a response to superhero madness that has overrun the box-office in the form of Marvel and belatedly DC adaptations. By contrast to these, They Call Me Jeeg Robot is a kitchen sink superhero film. There are no capes at most, Claudio Santamaria hides his face behind his hoodie (at least when he remembers to). The heros exploits are never anything more than super-strength and invulnerability to bullets and are depicted without much fuss and a minimum of special effects. Crucially, Claudio Santamaria is an ordinary guy, not the most handsome or well-built of actors. He has a romance of sorts with the girl of the show (Ilenia Pastorelli) but she is a fruit loop who lives in the fantasy of an anime series Steel Jeeg (1975-6), a real series that has played in Italy but oddly enough has never been seen in English and imagines him its hero (which leads to the films peculiar title) but becomes disillusioned after they actually have sex.
They Call Me Jeeg Robot resembles more one of the modern Italian crime films than it ever does a superhero film. Much of the film could easily play out as a petty crime drama without the need for superheroics Claudio Santamira kept reminding me of Kim Bodnias hapless protagonist in Pusher (1996) and sequels. Indeed, we are first introduced to Claudio Santamira on the run from the police where his transformation scene (akin to Spider-Man being bit by the radioactive spider) comes after he dives into The Tiber to avoid pursuit and ruptures a drum of waste and inadvertently swallows from its contents. If there is a film that this kitchen sink approach resembles it is not any of Marvel or DCs takes but M. Night Shyamalans Unbreakable (2000).
Eventually, They Call Me Jeeg Robot works on you. Its low-key take absorbs. Claudio Santamiras oddly blank hero starts to become sympathetic and the relationship between he and Ilenia Pastorelli becomes an oddly affecting one. They film doesnt exactly erupt into emotional sparks and heroic triumph but its final shot leaves you realising that you would be happy seeing more adventures of Enzo.