Directed by Miguel Sapochnik
Consider it a movie of the times. Repo Men is a brutal sci-fi thriller set in a near-future world suffering the aftershocks of the credit meltdown and health care crisis.
A purveyor of artificial organs, affectionately referred to as forgs, The Union has established itself as the leader in life extension technologies. For $600,000, a new (artificial) pancreas can make all the difference in the world.
And, of course, there are also hearts, eyes, kidneys, and just about anything else for sale.
The Union pummels the citizenry with splashy billboards and commercials featuring catchy slogans like "Helping you get more out of you" and "What's new in you?" Get that organ and get a new lease on life, or at least a new lease on that new organ. The Union offers generous terms on top of a low, low 19% APR: There's no problem until a client misses three payments. Even then, The Union waits until the sixth day of the fourth month to retrieve their property.
That's where Remy (Jude Law, Artificial Intelligence) comes in. He's a repo man and, much like those guys who go around repossessing cars because of non-payment, he'll take that heart back, thank you very much. But he's also a family man with a son and a wife, who'd like him to move into something with more stable, regular hours, like the sales department at The Union. What he'd really like to do, though, is write.
Repo Men is based on Eric Garcia's novel The Repossession Mambo, a cautionary tale which was "written" by Remy as part of the story's narrative. Neither one has a single thing to do with the Emilio Estevez cult classic, Repo Man.
At the beginning, as Remy pounds out his musings on an old-fashioned typewriter, he talks about a scientist experimenting with a cat in a box. The experiment revolves around the possibility of being alive and dead at the same time.
Remy makes no sense. At least not at the beginning.
As Repo Men marches on, Remy and his partner, Jake (Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland), scour the city looking for delinquent customers. They've got scanners that read the forg account information. But the smart ones out there use scanner jammers to block the signal and thereby preserve the last shreds of their financial integrity, or at least their life.
At the scene of his latest job, to remove a forg from one of his favorite musicians, Jimmy T-Bone (RZA, Funny People), Remy wryly notes that at least Jimmy will have the satisfaction of knowing he got his heart ripped out by somebody who appreciates his music.
Remy (Jude Law) puts a lot of heart into his work.
Photo: Universal Pictures
Unfortunately for Remy, though, he winds up in a coma after a faulty shock unit sends him flying across the living room. From there, Remy's life is no longer his own. His wife leaves him, furious that he refused to quit the repo work, and he's saddled with a forg of his own, one installed while he was unconscious.
Even worse, Remy no longer has a passion for cutting up people. His lack of enthusiasm shreds his income and, before he knows it, he's staring down the arrival of the sixth day of the fourth month.
That's when the movie hits its stride and Remy concocts a grandiose plan to save his life in what amounts to a corporate revenge fantasy. At that point, it turns into an over-the-top comic book with cleaver-wielding men in business suits slashing away at Remy and Co.
Mixing it up with a mean-spirited sense of humor, a penchant for over-the-top bloodshed, and some seriously compelling themes, Repo Men is something of a modern minor classic. And it benefits from a strong ending, not a sappy happy ending, but one that makes sense. It's one that even makes sense of Remy's opening jibber-jabber about the possibility of being dead and alive at the same time.
The movie is also visually striking, although it clearly owes a debt of gratitude to Blade Runner. The cityscapes are overrun with electronic billboards and blimps, but instead of being a startling vision of the future as when Ridley Scott's epic arrived in 1982, the concept now hits closer to home – and reality – as more and more cities take on that 24/7 eye candy appearance.
Given his background as a storyboard artist, it's clear director Miguel Sapochnik knows how to fill the film frame with an artistic flare. One outstanding scene in particular finds Remy, dressed from head to toe in black, in a giant, expansive clean room with dutiful workers decked out in a white that practically blends in with the room itself. When Remy's chased through that environment, it takes on a cool black-and-white two-tone feel.
It's always fun to watch a movie when it's clear somebody was thinking about the material and the presentation.
That's the case with Repo Men. It's not a perfect movie, but in its own demented, satirical way, it's a timely, thrilling movie.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.