Chappie review: Dodgy acting doesn’t hold back this sci-fi gem

Posted on 9 March 2015
By George Heron
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Neil Blomkamp has been responsible for the more intriguing recent attempts at sci-fi. He’s not afraid to tackle and incorporate important issues such as race and class relations into his creations. Can he continue the upward curve with Chappie?

Deon (Dev Patel) works for Tetravaal industries in Johannesburg, South Africa and is flavour of the month with the boss (Sigourney Weaver) after inventing robots called Scouts that local law enforcement have bought in bulk to police the streets. A rival engineer Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) has developed laid fervent technology and is waiting for his invention to be greenlit.

Meanwhile, criminals Ninja and Yolandi (both unknowns using their real names) are in debt to maniacal kingpin Hippo after a failed drug deal. The worlds of Deon and Ninja et al collide when Deon masters artificial consciousness and tries to install it into damaged Scout droid 22 and brings about the birth of Chappie.

The trailer suggested something like Short Circuit was the end product. Nothing of the sort. Chappie is much darker and more gritty. There is a veil of peril covering the whole film. There is the odd tender moment in Chappie’s development but mostly Blomkamp puts the titular character and everyone around him through hell.

Street-casting worked a treat for British gem Catch Me Daddy but nearly destroys any enjoyment of Chappie. Ninja in particular is one of the worst actors in living memory. He has two modes: hyperbolically aggressive and slightly less aggressive. He makes Tommy Wiseau look like a potential Oscar-winner. His constant shouting and gun-pointing robs the film of any subtlety and threatens to break it altogether. Credit to Blomkamp for managing to hold it all together

Hugh Jackman’s Moore is supposed to be the bad guy but he’s reasonable compared to Ninja. Blomkamp mainstay Shalton Copley is the goodie this time as the voice of Chappie. It’s his best performance which gives him a chance to go into his usual manic mode calling people fuck-mothers.

It’s not the greatest advert for South Africa. Crime seems to be around every corner. Citizens loot, pillage and riot when the Police’s guard is down.

This is not the heartwarming tale the initial trailer suggested. Extreme violence is prevalent. Lots of shouting, explosions, people getting torn apart by robots. Despite the film-breaking acting, the movie is worth sticking with as it’s stunningly well-made with a satisfying plot.

Furthermore, in case you hadn’t noticed, the film contains loads of robots. Robots are fab. We all should have one in our lives, even if it’s just for two hours to watch this film. They are perfectly realised and the CG-reality deficit grows smaller still.

Fingers crossed that the next Blomkamp movie doesn’t have Ninja in it.