5-Word 365 #165 – Repo Men

Yeah, so South Korean Action Movie Week has been a total  non-starter. Never mind though, that’s just the way of things sometimes. Instead, I’m trying to make a new movie out of all this week’s flicks. So far, we’ve got Repo Man From Nowhere On A Ledge. It seemed funnier in my head.

Repo Men

Payment protection insurance 4 life

It is the year 2025. Organ donation is a thing of the past, since all organs can now be constructed artificially. A corporation called The Union controls the industry and handles all the sales. While the ‘artiforgs’ are expensive, monthly payment plans are available. Just be careful not to fall behind, or The Union will despatch one of their crack Repo Men to recover their property. Remy and Jake are The Union’s top Repo Men; the best of the best. On what is to be his last repo job before trying a transfer to the sales division, Remy is injured by a faulty defibrillator and needs a replacement heart. When he starts missing his payments, suddenly the hunter becomes the hunted.

Based on co-writer Eric Garcia’s own novel The Reposession Mambo, Repo Men tries to have some important things to say about consumerism, and the corporate mentality of a healthcare system that values profits over human lives, but all of that ends up lost in the noise of a fairly standard chase movie. The film itself is not original in any way – in fact you can sit there with a notepad crossing off scenes and concepts that you’ve spotten in other better films – but it has an infectious verve to it that I really wasn’t expecting, and most of that comes from two places: Jude Law and Liev Schreiber. My opinion of Jude Law can vary wildly depending on the movie and my mood at the time but even though Remy is technically a sanctioned killer, I felt bad for him when he started to reconsider his life goals. His conversion from repo man to revolutionary is painted in broad strokes to be sure, but the change is made more believable because it has been given some time to develop organically instead of being played as an overnight decision.

I think somebody needs a Senokot…

Liev Schreiber doesn’t get a whole lot of screentime, but he’s great as Frank, Remy’s boss at The Union. He has this constant dry wit and couldn’t-give-a-shit attitude that is great fun to watch. Forest Whitaker plays Jake, Remy’s partner and best friend since school. He loves what he does and seems to take pleasure in it that borders on psychopathic at times, yet he clearly loves his friend even after he is assigned to repo Remy. Alice Braga is Beth, another artiforg defaulter being chased by the repo men. She is good in the part, but the role itself is quite underwritten. She exists as kind of a damaged dream woman for the recently-divorced Remy to save, with no real depth as a person outside of that. The actor most hard done by though is Carice van Houten; so good in Verhoeven’s Black Book, she is relegated here to Remy’s unsmiling harpy of a wife, who divorces him and changes the locks while he’s recuperating from a heart transplant. She really is one shockingly unsympathetic character, seemingly written only to make Beth even more idealised in Remy’s eyes by comparison.

Frank: magnificent bastard.

For a film whose main plot revolves around unwilling organ removal, Repo Men is as gory as you would expect. Some of the surgery scenes are almost Cronenbergian in fact, particularly the one at the climax. I have no problem with all the scalpel action personally, but it creates a lightning rod that serves to distract from the wider issues and themes that the story is struggling to keep a handle on. It is a balancing act that director Miguel Sapochnik unfortunately stumbles with. Looking past that for a moment though, Sapochnik and production manager David Sandefur have done an excellent job of world-building. Much as the Spierig Brothers and George Liddle did with Daybreakers in 2009 (which I thought was a great little movie, by the way), the near-future world of Repo Men is very similar to our own, but just different enough to make the fantastical aspects of the story that bit more believable.

A lone man fighting off a bunch of enemies in a drab corridor. At one point he even uses a hammer. The word “derivative” just doesn’t seem quite strong enough. (It’s still fun though)

Repo Men is a decent enough distraction, but not as deep and meaningful as it clearly wants to be. That ending is going to be divisive too.

11 comments

  1. todayiwatchedamovie · June 14, 2012

    Next you’ll have to do Legends of the Fall and The Legend of Bagger Vance…so you’ll have Repo Man on the Legend of the Fall of Bagger Vance

  2. Will Malone · June 14, 2012

    I got really excited when this popped into my feeder as I thought you had watched Alex Cox’s (remember him from BBC2’s videodrome?) 1984 classic Repo Man with Emilio Estevez! If you haven’t watched it may I suggest you add it to your watch list, as it is a true 80s classic.

    In regards to this Repo Man, I haven’t seen it, but I think I remember a review which suggested that a huge amount of the film had been lost in editing, and that the lost section contain all the character development. The reviewer suggested this as they couldn’t understand why Jude Law had taken the role as it was so out of the norm for him?

    Cheers,

    Will

    • Ryan McNeely · June 14, 2012

      Yeah, I remember Alex Cox’s videodrome show. I saw a ton of great movies thanks to him. That might have been where I saw Repo Man for the first time actually. I haven’t watched it in years though; maybe time for a revisit. I know he put out a sequel a couple of years ago, but apparently it was terrible.
      I didn’t know that about all the cut scenes on this flick. It makes sense though. Maybe I’ll check out the blu-ray, see if there is any good stuff there.

  3. Paragraph Film Reviews · June 15, 2012

    Could have done without seeing this but the bar code scanning blood and organ orgy at the end made it worth the wait. Why couldn’t the entire film have been that gory and different?

    Also, cheers for pointing Bubbawheat in my direction, really enjoyed filling that interview oot!

    • Ryan McNeely · June 17, 2012

      That end scene really was a classic moment, but if the whole film had been like that, it probably would have ended up banned or some shit like that. Damn censors.

  4. fernandorafael · June 18, 2012

    Very good review! I’m on the fence with this one, actually.

    • Ryan McNeely · June 18, 2012

      Thanks. When I’m on the fence, I usually fall on the “I’ll give it a go” side. At least that way, I can say I gave it a chance. There are very very few movies that I refuse to watch.

      • fernandorafael · June 18, 2012

        That is a great approach actually. I’ll start doing that.

      • Ryan McNeely · June 18, 2012

        Trust me, you’ll be glad you did. A lot of the films I really love are ones I was on the fence about before I watched them

      • fernandorafael · June 18, 2012

        Yeah, I get what you mean. It has happened to me before.

  5. Pingback: 5-Word 365 #288 – Repo! The Genetic Opera | 5-Word Movie Reviews

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