Nope, it’s not the car one. Nor is it the bizarre musical version with the similar premise. This is a straight-talking, incredibly violent action-drama about dudes who reclaim artificial organs when the buyer defaults on their payment plan. On the surface, Repo Men is just a gory sci-fi excuse for some close-quarters knife fights (never fear, there are plenty of those). After the sub-prime mortgage collapse and the crude and hostile health-care debates, Repo Men accidentally got a little relevant. Do we loathe or pity the defaulters for not meeting their unfairly weighted financial obligations? Justifications abound for both sides, but Repo Men treads a line.
As for the style and texture, if Blade Runner and Gattaca got together, they would look like this near-future semi-dystopic metropolis. Here is the urban hunting ground where Jude Law and Forest Whitaker do their work, shiny and clean, dark and over-saturated with ads, with high tech everything and a pretty cavalier attitude towards violence. Imagine the paperwork today if your cab was the site of a man having his kidney removed in a technically sanctioned act of murder.
Law’s character is at the top of his game, excelling at work while neglecting the home life. His partner Whitaker is more gleeful at his work, less professional. The property they repossess, the artiforgs, are financed at insane rates, then reclaimed (and ew, resold!) after 96 days of nonpayment. In short, you’re surprised in your home or work or anywhere, zapped, cut, and the goods are bagged, while you are left for dead. The obligatory and de facto waiving of patient rights to an ambulance is a nice touch. It’s not serial killing, it’s perfectly legal, apparently. At least society has the decency to be a little squeamish about it. The tools of the trade allow them to check passersby for default, they don’t even have to wait for the bureaucratic wheel to turn up their next mark. It is jacked up.
One thing leads to another and now Law has an artiforg and he has defaulted on the payments, so he’s on the run. You could drive an ambulance through the plot holes after this point. Evil boss Liev Schreiber offers no employee discount for nonconsensual implantation of their product? Never mind the revelations of how it came to happen later in the movie, what about just obeying the legal rules of the world the film set up? It totally doesn’t matter. We didn’t come to the movies for artiforg tort reform. Law, with some shiny new innards and a sudden capacity to empathize for his previous targets, has got him some problems now, the kinds that are often solved through other people getting killed.
Act II is ostensibly the exciting part, you know, revelatory horrors, hiding out, fighting back, etc. Instead Jude takes up with some random woman from a previous scene (Alice Braga), who is chock full of unpaid merchandise and can totally understand what he’s going through. Interest starts to flag. I hope Eric Garcia’s novel, The Repossession Mambo, on which this film was based, doesn’t suffer from the same digression. At least we have a hilarious Larry the Lung costumed character for the kids!
I don’t need to tell you who’s been assigned to the job of repo’ing Law’s artiforg. I also probably don’t need to tell you that a movie about professional vivisectionists has a ridiculously squibbulous climax involving non-traditional weaponry. I shouldn’t have been as surprised by the weird eroticizing of some painful surgical actions. By the ending the twist of the plot turns into a squirm-inducing twist of the knife. Despite the up close and personal slicing and dicing, Repo Men feels like it’s trying to be a new sci-fi classic like the movies it visually resembles, or even become a serious movie. The random girl side plot takes up too much real estate and the psychological ramifications of the tech and the job get short shrift. Still, you can’t go completely wrong with an Oscar winner chasing an Oscar nominee with a paring knife, and Repo Men gets a good bit right.
MPAA Rating R-strong bloody violence, grisly images, language, some sexuality/nudity
Release date 3/19/10
Time in minutes 111
Director Miguel Sapchnik
Studio Universal Pictures