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They Call Me Jeeg ("Lo chiamavano Jeeg Robot")

Canadian Premiere
  • Italy
  • 2016
  • 117 mins
  • DCP
  • Italian
  • English (subtitles)
Winner: Best New Director, Bari International Film Festival 2016; Silver Scream Award, Imagine Film Festival 2016

Official Selection: Rome Film Festival 2015, Seattle International Film Festival 2016

“Surprisingly gritty and thoroughly enjoyable” - Jay Weissberg, VARIETY

“Fresh and original… a great riff on the whole superhero story” – Ard Vijn, TWITCHFILM

With a pair of cops hot on his heels, small-time crook Enzo Ceccotti leaps into the Tiber River to escape, in the process coming into contact with toxic waste. After one hell of a night, the hoodlum awakes with extraordinary powers including superhuman strength, astounding endurance and almost instantaneous healing. Unfortunately, his first impulse isn’t to help other people, but rather to help himself to other people’s stuff. Following a series of minor crimes, he’s struck by an uncharacteristic moment of kindness and decides to come to the aid of a young woman in his building. She’s utterly obsessed with the Japanese anime series STEEL JEEG, and strives to convince Enzo to use his powers for good. Who knows, he might just have the makings of a superhero.

In the 1970s, the translated Japanese anime show STEEL JEEG, by Go Nagai, was huge on Italian TV, and that nostalgia sets the stage for the debut feature film from director Gabriele Mainetti. Neither an adaptation nor a pastiche, THEY CALL ME JEEG brings something new to the table: an Italian superhero film, shot in Italy, with Italian characters. It might be a very American style of film, but the Italian touch is unmistakable. Mainetti makes it all work with sharp intelligence, beautifully balancing the thoughtful and the mindlessly fun. The wickedly witty screenplay, loaded with colourful characters and clever ideas, is brought to life by a top-notch cast. Beyond Claudio Santamaria’s turn in the lead role, there’s Ilenia Pastorelli’s essential performance as Enzo’s childlike neighbour. And no superhero movie is complete without a great villain, and Luca Marinelli delivers the goods as the despicable Gypsy. A potent mix of American and European cinema, tied together by Mainetti with unmistakable Italian savoir-faire.

— Éric S. Boisvert