A cute sentient robot turned South-African gangster - what's not to love! Neill Blomkamp's 2015 Sci-Fi Action flick Chappie, featuring the South-African rap/rave duo Die Antwoord along side Hollywood superstars Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver is dirty, gritty and a fun filled ride. While Chappie remains an immensely enjoyable film from end to end, its structure and endgame will leave you feeling like this flick really trailed off and became nothing to write home about.
Based in a near future Johannesburg, Chappie tells the story of a decommissioned police droid which is reprogramed to be sentient by an engineer named Deon (Dev Patel). The droid and Deon are soon kidnapped by local thugs (Ninja, Yolandi, and Amerika) who raise and teach Chappie their unlawful ways of life - thus so they can use him for their crimes. Chappie is then tricked into using his mechanical strengths to rob cars and kill people, however a botched armoured car robbery sees their act caught on the news, gaining the attention of the military who want the droid destroyed. The film then becomes a cat and mouse between thugs and police, both determined to dictate Chappie's fate.
While featuring some beautifully shot, gritty action sequences, embedded with stunning special effects and great performances (from some of the cast), the film's attempt to be 'gangster' takes visual effects too far. Ultimately, this impacts and therefore aids in ruining the film's pacing and throws the viewer submersion. With random slow-motion scenes interlaced throughout heavy, fast action sequences, and with the addition of unnecessary shots designed to drag out suspense with flimsy dialogue, Chappie's 'bad' somehow outweighs its 'good' in parts. Furthermore, the script begins to unravel itself and undoes all the great plot and character development it had achieved during the first half. When Chappie begun, I had such high hopes but by about 30 minutes I discovered it was more a bell curve of quality.
The characters actions become unjust, and you begin to care about very few of the characters on screen. In a film with Die Antwoord, this is a huge missed opportunity, and while each character starts building well, a rushed ending breaks it. The end product produces half baked supporting characters with unbelievable and unrelatable quirks. Chappie starts to build this great world but gives it up for stereotype direction and overcooked action clichés.
However, standout performance by Dev Patel and Yolandi Visser helped keep Chappie on the rails long enough to pull you in for the full runtime, while Hugh Jackman's limited appearance was cringe worthy - a rarity for our national treasure. A cast standout and surprise was Ninja, who bought a two dimensional character (just like Jackman's) to life with an entertaining over-the-top portrayal, and while not relatable and extremely predictable, Ninja was very enjoyable and convincing to watch.
Don't be deterred with checking out Chappie after hearing all this, and while the film is no where near perfect - far far from it - it is a very fun and dumb enjoyable ride. At moments it may take itself more seriously than it should, however it is definitely an easy and watchable action-sci-fi film to enjoy with mates or with a few tinnies.