Tue
Mar 23 2010 3:40pm

Repo Men: Take That Back.


There’s a moment early in Repo Men in which Jude Law’s Remy, an artificial-organ retrieval operative, is reclaiming the liver of a past-due gentlemen whom Remy has tasered to subdue. In the middle of Remy’s legally-mandated questionnaire about whether the man would like to have an ambulance present, the man’s date attacks Remy. “There’s no need for violence, miss,” assures Remy, and promptly tasers her, too.

Most of Repo Men feels like this. I don’t mean stale one-liners inserted into a premise that devolves into a by-the-book dystopia. I mean, it feels like being tasered.

Theoretically, Repo Men should be a movie for our time because it focuses on the punitive bait-and-switch of privatized healthcare, and the seemingly inhuman ability of corporate employees to enact greed cycles without thought to the human cost—two timely concepts that absolutely deserve screen time, especially tackled metaphorically in a sci-fi setting.

Practically, though, Repo Men is a movie for our time because it’s a hyper-violent, poorly-scripted, nominally sci-fi clunker that fails to deliver on its premise.

And the premise itself isn’t bad. In fact, despite a too-jokey voiceover, the film’s opening fifteen minutes set the stage for a dark comedy that might have pulled off the intended criticism of corporate culture and the many villainies of recession. Repo men wear the short-sleeved dress shirts of a third-tier bank teller, and their corporate headquarters features Disneyfied men-in-lung-suits for kids to play with. Law himself is suitably engaging as a man who’s not only efficient at his job, but might in fact love what he does. Law has always been much better at arch, creepy character parts than as a leading man, and for these fifteen minutes the role suits him. Forest Whitaker is equally strong; if the director had the courage to make his leads interesting rather than likable, this might have turned out to be a satire worth seeing. (Liev Schreiber, a bright spot as the smarmy corporate honcho, goes through the whole movie pretending this is the movie he’s actually in.)

Unfortunately, the film makes a fatal error by giving Remy an on-the-job accident that requires him to get an artificial heart from his own company. Back on the streets, he suddenly finds reserves of sympathy for those he disembowels, and is unable to carry out any of his job tickets—he’s lost the heart for it. (GET IT?) There’s not nearly enough audience goodwill built up for Remy to indulge him in his revelations that life is precious. It’s empty and static, and by the time he’s conveniently cut off by his family and goes on the run to the abandoned housing project of Paradise (GET IT?), the writing’s on the wall.

From here, it’s a full-on Science Fiction After-School Special, as Remy enters an underworld of dirty-yet-plucky folk fleeing repossession (including a sassy nine-year-old surgeon), falls in love with a comely-waif runaway, fights repeatedly and viciously against his ex-partner (sent to repo him, of course), and at last decides to gain freedom for all people, or at least for himself, by finding the Pink Door at Union headquarters and Bringing Down the Man From The Inside. (...Mary Kay?)

These plot markers are largely accomplished through graphic fight scenes, in which Jude Law makes his fight choreographer proud, and the filmmakers finance the entire fake-gore industry for another year. (This is discounting the gore factor of the actual repo scenes.) One of the less explicit fight scenes involves a typewriter dropped from a great height and a pressurized blood balloon. Squeamish moviegoers, take note.

I won’t spoil the last act, not so much out of journalistic integrity as a desire for the unsuspecting to suffer as I suffered. Suffice it to say it’s a series of increasingly-vacuous Big Moments that culminate in a laughably bad denouement—which is nice, I guess, since at least that way the movie gets one laugh.

Larger than my problems with the film itself, though, are my problems with what a film like this represents. With paint-by-numbers violence, stock characters, and half-baked plotting, Repo Men is science fiction only in the vaguest sense. At best, it’s a bad action film in geek’s clothing. At worst, it’s just a marker of how “science fiction” has come to mean “slapping some futuristic CGI over various recycled plot elements and calling it a day.” Repo Men is just another in a long series of examples of why it’s hard for some to believe that science fiction can be an exciting, engaging, and cerebral genre; with friends like Repo Men, who needs enemies?


Genevieve saw this in a theatre that had five other people in it. Two of them walked out. (She envies them.) She writes about other bad movies on her blog.

6 comments
Clifton Royston
1. CliftonR
That's really disappointing to hear, particularly as the original Repo Man was so off-the-wall brilliant in so many ways, persistently and endearingly cynical, and so little like a Hollywood action movie. This sounds like the polar opposite.
Ashe Armstrong
2. AsheSaoirse
And all the Repo! fans were worried. It's exactly what I knew it would be the first time I saw a trailer for it.
Tegan
3. Tegan
I heard that the book (Repossession Mambo) is darker, with Remy's character much more ambiguous. They should have kept that for the movie.
Tegan
5. PtrP
Theoretically, Repo Men should be a movie for our time because it focuses on the punitive bait-and-switch of privatized healthcare, and the seemingly inhuman ability of corporate employees to enact greed cycles without thought to the human cost—two timely concepts that absolutely deserve screen time, especially tackled metaphorically in a sci-fi setting.


---

Wow, thats a mouthful. Healthcare is not a right. Nor is it right to continuously tax people when there are sufficient funds already available, they're just being misappropriated decade after decade by greedy political leaders who have set themselves up as kings and queens. I'm sure, somewhere, there is a founding father rolling over in his grave.
Torie Atkinson
6. Torie
@ 5 PtrP

Yes, yes, grave rolling, etc.

Keep it on topic, please.
Nicholas Alcock
7. NullNix
Strongly agreed with all of it. I watched it *knowing* it would be bad, and, boy, it was. To adapt some comments I made in another forum:

The organs are insanely expensive. Ten thousand a month for an unknown period... Anyone with that sort of money coming in on a monthly basis is going to either have enough to pay for a new spleen without going into debt, or be able to get a decent loan from a bank that charges non-loan-shark APRs, pushing the cost down.

But, more mysterious than this, the spleen is a nonessential organ, the antibiotics you need without a spleen are not anywhere near that expensive, and surgery to implant an artificial spleen would surely be enormously costly and life-threateningly serious. Why on earth would anyone ever want one?


Worse than that: why are they repossessing the organs at all? What on earth could anyone *do* with a previously-used artificial organ? You can hardly implant it in anyone else; it's medical waste at best, which is really costly to dispose of. This plot is fractally stupid: it makes less sense in more and more oddly similar ways the more you think about it.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment