They call me Jeeg is a low budget sci-fi movie which was the 2016 sensation in Italian film industry.
Oh, Rome! Thinking of Rome do you imagine yourself speeding on a Vespa and eating ice cream sitting on the Spanish steps, surrounded by glorious monuments?
It’s time to see Rome from a different angle.
They call me Jeeg is a sci-fi movie set in Rome and with a Roman superhero. Here‘s the trailer.
The movie begins with the main character, a small time criminal named Enzo (played by actor Claudio Santamaria, you spotted him in 007 – Casino Royale) running away from police. He cross Sant’Angelo bridge and dives into the Tiber, where he gets in contact with some radioactive material abandoned in the river.
Days later he discovers to have superpowers. It’s a classic.
Enzo is an antisocial character living in a wretched apartment in Tor Bella Monaca (in the suburb of Rome), eating pudding and watching porn all day long. In the same building lives Alessia, a disturbed women obsessed by Japanese anime Steel Jeeg. When she discovers Enzo superpowers, she immediately gets convinced that Enzo is the hero of her favourite cartoon.
What does he do with his newly gained super-strenght? Of course, he steals a cash machine, literally extracting it from the wall. Enzo interferes with the activities of Lo Zingaro (“the Gispsy”), who wants to be the next big thing in Rome criminality. Lo Zingaro is pathologically obsessed by fame. That’s why when the security video of the bank showing Enzo robbing the cash machine gets viral on Youtube, he becomes his main enemy.
So we have the superhero (misanthropic), the girlfriend (psychotic) and the villain (ruthless and narcissistic). A good start, isnt’it? And I haven’t mentioned a mafia queen, a transexual, bombs devastating Rome and a reasonable number of shooting and deaths.
The plot of They call me Jeeg then evolves in a crime story. While the strange friendship between Enzo and Alessia develops, she tries to convince him that he’s got superpowers for a reason, to save people. He starts to believe her. And at the same time Lo Zingaro gets more and more evil. Actor Luca Marinelli quotes the many Jokers of the Batman films, being scary and exhilarating at the same time (especially when he sings Italian love songs of the Eighties).
Until the epic fight the Olympic Stadium full of football fans, during a match of A.S. Roma.
Italians in their forties remember very well the success of the Japanese anime Steel Jeeg in the late Seventies and Early eighties. It’s an iconic cartoon for people of that age. The reference to this character is not surprising to me. Nevertheless They call me Jeeg relates more with the classic superhero American movies like Spider Man and Batman. (Lo Zingaro shouts to Enzo: “who are you? Have you been bitten by a spider? A bat? Have you dropped down from another planet?). And contaminates it with Gomorrah-style crime.
I don’t go further because It has been reviewed more professionally than I can do by Variety. I can say that this movie excited revewers, public and even geeks. It won tons of “David di Donatello” prizes (The Italian Oscars): best actor, best actress, best supporting actor and actress, best debut director and best production.
Actually I was also enthusiast about the movie, it’s new and fun and dark and different. But it left me with a bitter mood. Why?
They call me Jeeg is realistic. I’m not speaking about the credibility of special effects or the plot. I’m speaking about something else.
Would anybody in Italy be surprised if tanks of toxic substances were found in the Tiber? If a bomb bursted in the centre of Rome? If, as subtly suggested in the film, mafia was involved in that bombs? If a girl from suburb was abused by her doctor? Sadly, nobody would be surprised: it has probably already happened.
And in Italy we’re starting to think that it’s going to happen again and again.
The last big corruption enquiry started in 2014 and its remnants are still there two years later, while I’m writing this post and the new Mayor of Rome is going to be elected. The homicide of a 22 years old student by her boyfriend in Rome in May 2016 caused much more horror than a similar story happened the same days in Northern Italy. It’s like bad things are worst when they happen in Rome.
This film makes you think that Rome looks surprisingly like Gotham city.
The French poster of Fellini’s Roma said: Rome est un bien bel endroit pour attendre la fin du monde, Rome is a good place to wait for the end of the world.
But there’s a difference.
Rome is still Rome. As an immobile and untouchable goddess that doesn’t even look at ordinary or extraordinary lives of human beings, Rome quickly forgets these stories, swallowed by its thousand-years old history. Its beauty just remains still. The bird-eye shots at the beginning and at the end of the movie show it.
If Rome is Gotham city, Rome doesn’t need a superhero.
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