If the animators of Aardman, the company behind Wallace and Gromit, gave up crumpets and custard creams, switched to an intravenous diet of raw steak and steroids, and were forced to watch trashy 80s movies 24/7 for a month, they might come up with something like Chuck Steel. This is a sweary, gleefully violent stop-motion animation directed by Mike Mort (whose credits include episodes of the Shaun the Sheep TV series). His action-hero creation is US cop Chuck Steel, a boorish knucklehead with a chin the size of a wheelbarrow. Set in the 80s, the film is a spoofy comedy lampooning the bad old days when it was OK in a movie to call a woman “sugar tits” and use the R-word. But most of the humour comes from simply saying this stuff, which gets a bit uncomfortable.
It opens with a gloriously over-the-top action set piece: Steel (voiced by Mort) single-handedly takes on an army of ninjas in a doomed attempt to rescue his wife. The sequence is a technical marvel of handmade stop-motion, each frame crammed with a thousand tiny details. The main action sees Steel, a throwback to Bruce Willis or Sylvester Stallone in their hanging-out-of-helicopters heyday, on the case of rampaging Trampires: homeless vampires addicted to booze and blood. (They look incredible, like extras from Michael Jackson’s Thriller.) Trampires target people drunkenly staggering out of bars late at night, and naturally the only way to kill them is with a wooden stake through … the liver, not the heart.
It’s a silly, fun storyline, but Mort hasn’t whittled his satire to a sharp enough tip. Here’s a typical line: “Tell my wife I never loved her. I only married her to get close to her sister,” a cop says on his deathbed. Is it offensive? Not exactly, but the bad 80s jokes wear pretty thin pretty quickly.
• Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires is in cinemas from 29 October.