In the hands of a defter director Repo Men could have been a grim satire and a major dystopian movie as it is based on a bold and engaging idea – in the consumer society of the future you don’t own your body, the same way you don’t really own your house or your car; your bank, or the company in the movie, simply leases these things to you.
Review by SAndman
January 7, 2011
Novel: Eric Garcia
screenplay: Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner
Jude Law as Remy
Forest Whitaker as Jake
Liev Schreiber as Frank
Alice Braga as Beth
Carice van Houten as Carol
My job is simple. Can’t pay for your car, the bank takes it back. Can’t pay for your house, the bank takes it back. Can’t pay for your liver, well, that’s where I come in.
Sometime in the 21st century, The Union corporation has found a way to manufacture artificial organs and body parts on a large scale and mass-market its products to the ailing population at a price.
The company employs a virtual army of well-trained thugs who make sure that in case a customer falls behind on his payments the artificial organ he’s using is promptly reclaimed, or, in the parlance of the day, repossessed. Needless to say, these enforcers are entitled to use any means available to retrieve the corporation’s property regardless of the customer’s well-being.
The plot follows a top-notch repo man named Remy, an ex-soldier, as he goes about his daily routine – and for all the affection he has for his hapless victims, Remy would have put to shame any number of Nazi death squad troopers. Remy sometimes works alone and sometimes accompanied by his irrepressible partner Jake. The two scour the futuristic megalopolis in their car searching for organs to be repossessed and trading grisly jokes.
However, all is not well in the land of Remy. He struggles to keep his marriage together as his emotionally distant (go figure!) wife nags about his job. She insists that he ask his boss Frank for transfer to another department inside the company, which he never does – for reasons unexplained.
But the real trouble for Remy begins when he botches a job and, much to his distress finds himself at the receiving end of the system he has so loyally, albeit without much conviction – Remy is no thinker – served.
Set against a dystopian backdrop, Repo Men has the potential for a scathing satire. Sadly, the dark irony of the basic premise is left undeveloped. Also, the tone of the movie is inconsistent. At times I got the impression the director was trying to juggle too many things at once – social critique, black comedy, action movie. And he did it in a way that showed not-too-subtle influences of his much-admired predecessors.
For instance, the futuristic cityscape in Repo Men looked too much like the millionth incarnation of the Blade Runner, even the hero’s musings bear a distant resemblance to Rick Deckard’s comments – except that here you can’t help but think that the director, using the voice of the main character, try like hell to fill in the holes in the plot and “explain” the movie to the baffled viewers. Moreover, all those who found Ford’s voiceover redundant will likely find Law’s downright annoying.
Which is not to say that Law did not try. He simply worked with what they gave him. And if you can’t relate to the character of Remy that is not Law’s fault – he simply did his best with the character who, on his best days, would come across as crude and cynical.
Worse still, Whitaker’s take is nothing short of ludicrous – he veers between the deadpan killer from the Ghost Dog and the erratic dictator from the Last King of Scotland. And he ends up with something that looks more like a Rorschach blur of twitches, wild gestures and anti-social rant than a believable, albeit troubled, character.
The other characters in Repo Men are cast in the same mold and range from a cookie-cutter douchebag to an unconvincing femme fatale. Moreover, the love story, which takes center stage in the second half of the movie, feels as unbelievable as the hero’s about-face.
Actually, it is more believable than Remy’s abrupt reversal – at least you can chalk it up to desperation and loneliness, whereas there’s absolutely nothing in the plot to account for Remy’s change of heart – except, of course, the change of heart (pun intended).
Furthermore, the pace is terribly off. The first half of the movie feels long-drawn-out with pointless variations of Remy and Jake’s ghastly routine, and when the pace eventually does pick up, you feel like you suddenly found yourself watching a different movie, and lastly when, of all things, the anticlimactic finale rolls on you know it is a cop-out.
So, in the end, Repo Men is a movie which doesn’t deliver on more than one level – which is really a shame because it could have been so much more if the director had been given a better script, and had he handled the material with more finesse – but hey, let’s cut the guy some slack, this is his debut after all.
The basic premise – original and edgy – isn’t really tapped into and the actors are left to flounder in a limbo of empty gestures and inane lines – my favorite is, “I have an artificial heart, she has an artificial everything else. Maybe we are two parts of the same puzzle”. And, darn it, Repo Men is just too long!