Film review by: Witney Seibold
No relation of Alex Cox’ 1984 masterpiece “Repo Man,” or to 2008’s “Repo! The Genetic Opera.”
If you’ve seen both Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” then you’re already kind of familiar with Miguel Sapochnik’s” “Repo Men.” In the future, there is a new, sort-of supernatural system in place. The one star worker of that system finds himself being hunted by his colleagues. He finds himself on the lam with a female sidekick, trying to unravel the entire system that was so good to him up until the movie. This is an old story that can only be saved by good storytelling, good acting, or some clever dialogue.
Is “Repo Men” saved by any of these things? Almost. Jude Law plays the lead role well, and I always like to see Forest Whitaker play an asshole. Liev Schreiber is a delight in every one of his roles (here playing the corporate jagoff), and Alice Braga, the female lead, is surprisingly game, if not a bit indistinct. The storytelling is… fine I guess. Sapochnik directs efficiently, without rushing to the chases and action scenes, and without letting the sci-fi design overwhelm, but, sadly, does nothing to really make his film stand out more than it could have.
The premise, in the light of the recent healthcare bill, almost seems like a relic. In the future, a private company called The Union has convinced people that they need a constant influx of pricey artificial organs. They offer a complicated loan package with a mere 19% interest rate. If you ever fall behind on payments, a repo man is sent to you to retrieve the company’s property. This involves knocking you out with a taser, and slicing right into your still-warm body to take out a kidney, liver, or even heart. They don’t need to expressly kill you, but you try getting up after your artificial heart has been removed.
Law plays a character named Remy (although I don’t think his name is ever spoken aloud in the film) who is the star of The Union’s Repo Men. All the Repo Men are rough-and-tumble ex-military types who have no qualms about slicing people up on the street. When Remy himself, thanks to a defribulator accident, has his own heart replaced by a Union heart, he finds he can no longer in good conscience do his job, and goes on the lam to avid debt and the Repo Men (including Whitaker) on his tail. Alog the way he picks up a sultry lounge singer (Braga) who seems addicted to the knife. Addicted to the knife? Addicted to the knife.
There is one scene in which “Repo Man” begins to rise above, if only for the sheer overpowering ickiness of it. Remy and his ladyfriend find themselves in The Union’s corporate office, attempting to remove themselves from the system. This involves scanning their transplanted organs with a hand-held laser scanner. They take drugs, cut holes in one another, and shove their uncovered fists into each others newly-sliced body cavities. They wince in pain, take more drugs, kiss, spill blood, and continue the scanning. Gore, flesh, sex, love, blood. It’s like a scene from “Flesh for Frankenstein,” or perhaps an early Cronenberg movie. For these few horrific moment, “Repo Man” becomes something unique.
Whitaker gives a speech about how the world doesn’t operate without debt, and fear of Repo Men, but it’s not as good as Harry Dean Stanton’s speech from “Repo Man.”
There is, of course, also a twist ending, but I will not say what it is, only to mention that, what with the predictability of most thrillers’ “twist” endings these days, it’s nice that you won’t see this one coming. And, I feel, this didn’t feel like any kind of cop-out or jerkaround.