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.
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.
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.
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.
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.