August 12, 2010

Repo Men is like a sci-fi greatest hits album compiled into one film.  It has a heaping helping of Minority Report and Repo: The Genetic Opera mixed with Blade Runner, and a dash of Jacob’s Ladder for good measure.  The plot follows a sociopathic Repo Man name Remy (Jude Law) whose job is to repossess high tech organs from people when they miss a payment.  Lots of gore and sci-fi action ensues and the inevitable reversal when the hunter becomes the hunted.  The question is, does this film offer enough new to an already full table of sci-fi hits and misses?  My full review of Repo Men after the jump.

I saw a screening of this almost a year before it came out and thought it was a pretty decent, if not forgettable, sci-fi action flick. When it was finally released theatrically it came and went pretty fast.  I would imagine it’s severely pitch black comedic tone turned away the general public.  The film doesn’t take itself too seriously and that’s one of its major selling points and why the first half works way better because of that.  The complete apathetic way Remy (Jude Law) and his partner Jake (Forest Whitaker) carve up innocent people that get behind on payments is disturbing and sometimes pretty funny, in a sick and twisted way.  When Remy becomes the good guy, the humor takes a back seat to action and chase sequences, which are a lot of fun, but don’t entirely match the tone set by the first part of the film.

Repo Men is set in the not-too-distant future where a company called “The Union” has begun manufacturing organs to help people with diseases or that need transplants.  This improves the person’s quality of life ten-fold, unless they can’t make their payments.  Once someone is more than three months late, the “Repo Men” are sent in to repossess your organ.  Typically leaving the patient in a bloody, dead, carved up mess.  Remy and Jake are the best Repo Men on the beat, until Remy’s heart gets damaged in a “routine” repossession and he gets a piece of The Union inside him.  After his surgery Remy experiences a literal and figurative “change of heart.” He can’t do his job anymore, suddenly the thought of chopping up innocents isn’t as appealing and because he can’t do his job, he falls behind on payments, sending the Repo Men after him.  Remy is forced to take refuge with other poor souls trying to hide from The Union, where he meets a woman named Beth who is practically made up of all black market organs.  They form a bond and try to fight the good fight where lots of cat and mouse chases and cool action scenes play out, but you can’t stop Capitalism no matter how hard you try.  I don’t want to give away the ending, because it is one of my favorite parts about the film.  Although I will say there is a super badass fight in a hallway where Remy takes on all the Repo Men with just a pair of knives.  One word: AWESOME.

The elements that work in Repo Men work fairly well, but there are moments and formulaic moves that stick out like sore thumbs.  The action and pace of the film is spot on.  Watching the film a second time, I really appreciated the way the action set pieces played out and really thought the gratuitous amount of gore added to the amoral world of the story.  All the performances are great too, Jude Law as the calm and scarily precise killer turned hero.  Forest Whitaker and Alice Braga do a great job in their supporting roles, but the real stand out for me is Liev Shreiber, who plays Frank, Remy and Jake’s boss.  He is so cutthroat and unapologetic in all his actions; he gives a comedically frightening performance.  His character is all about the bottom-line and never has a moment of “what I’m doing is wrong.”  He just keeps on his relentless, sadistic, moneymaking path.  The cast and action aren’t the problems in this film, but there are some leaps in character arcs I find a bit hard to digest.

The first issue I have is that the film establishes Remy as this completely psychotic killer, created by the military, then dropped back into society where the only way he can function “normally” is by joining the Repo Men.  He mangles people in the beginning, smiling as they beg for their lives and, as I said, these scenes are disturbingly comedic.  Then when he gets a heart transplant, it’s like an immediate and complete 180.  I would have liked to see a little more of a progression to him being the “hero.”  The love story happens a bit quickly too, he sees Beth singing in a bar earlier in the film and then later when he’s on the run he happens to save her.  Then they become bandits together, even though her character is non-existent for the first forty minutes of the film.  Realistically though, if they had taken more time showing Remy have an existential crisis or developing Beth more, I may be complaining that the film dragged too much in the middle.  So, perhaps the sacrificing of story serves this mish-mash of sci-fi just fine, since it’s really about the action anyway and the “thrill ride.”  If the other scenes in the film weren’t so much fun, I would really be bummed about these formulaic events, but since the film does so many other things right, I guess I can forgive a few minor infractions.

I do have to address a major issue for some fans out there about the extreme similarity to the musical Repo: The Genetic Opera.  The premise for both films is identical, in that both deal with a major corporation manufacturing organs and gutting those that can’t pay.  Repo: The Genetic Opera is a darkly comedic rock opera and Repo Men takes the premise and mixes Minority Report with it, making it more of an action film.  I am on the fence as to which film I like better, but I know the stage show of the opera has a huge cult following and that the internet blew up with angry fans when Repo Men was announced.  I like both films for what they are and have seen much more blatant rip-offs in the past, so I say live and let live.  They both can exist on my DVD shelves.

Repo Men may take too much from several other films, but it does have a voice of it’s own and a lot of really cool action.  It has some blatant anti-military and anti-capitalist themes to it, but what science fiction film doesn’t have razor sharp social commentary (pun intended for this film).  I enjoyed the film on both viewings and think it’s a decent enough sci-fi action flick that fans of the genre will have a fun ride.  It won’t fall into the “best of” list for the genre, but it’s not an offensive entry either.  Definitely worth a rental if you’re not too squeamish.

Special Features:

Unrated cut has 8 additional minutes that include a little more gore and a scene with John Leguizamo.

Deleted Scenes- Cut for a reason

The Union Commercials- fun satirical commercials about “The Union” helping people

Inside the Visual Effects- Featurette on the special effects of the film

Writer/Director Commentary


Film B

Features B-

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