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Repo Men
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by Peter Sobczynski

"You're Too (Re)Possessive"
2 stars

“Repo Men” takes place in a not-too-distant future where it seems that practically everyone is running around with at least a couple of artificial limbs or organs brought in to replace the defective originals. This turns out to be wildly appropriate since the film itself consists almost entirely of elements shamelessly borrowed from other sources. Unfortunately, while this particular subject seems healthy enough in certain areas--it moves quickly and the blood is certainly flowing throughout--it quickly becomes clear that its brain is long overdue for a tune-up. The result is a Frankenstein monster of a movie that does have a few moments of inspiration here and there but which ultimately would have been served better if the people in charge of putting it together had simply pulled the plug, rethought things and tried again after making the necessary improvements.

In the not-too-distant future, economic catastrophe has largely swept the world and one of the few businesses that is still thriving is a medical conglomerate known as The Union, who have cornered the market on the artificial organs that it seems that practically everyone needs. Of course, such parts are wildly expensive but the representatives are more than willing to provide customers with payment plans that will suit their financial needs (gee, does this sound familiar to anyone?). They are so kind and generous, in fact, that if you wind up falling behind on your bill (which is more than likely thanks to the onerous interest rate on the balloon-valve payments), they will even provide you with a 96-day grace period in order to allow you to catch up. What doesn’t get emphasized in the brochures and commercials is what happens if the grace period expires and you haven’t paid up--they send a repo man to track you down and retrieve their property by removing it from your body. Sure, they are legally required to offer the services of an ambulance but by the time it gets to that point, such a thing is superfluous at best.

One of the best repo men in the business is Remy (Jude Law), a none-too-bright former soldier who prowls through the night with his longtime pal, Jake (Forest Whittaker), in order to find delinquent organs to return to sleazy corporate weasel Frank (Liev Schreiber) to collect the hefty commissions so that he can provide a luxurious lifestyle for his wife (Carice van Houten) and child. However, Remy is being pressured by his better half to get out of the repo side of the business and go into the sales division because it is safer and steadier, although it is although a more ethically questionable profession when you think about it for a bit. Alas, when he goes out on what he promises himself will be his last job, an equipment malfunction causes him to suffer from cardiac arrest and when he comes to in the hospital, he discovers to his horror that he is now in possession of a top-of-the-line replacement heart and a potentially crippling debt load of his own. Dumped by his wife for going on that near-fatal job, Remy attempts to return to the repo business but on his first day back, he discovers, you guessed it, that his heart is no longer in it. With time running out and his bill coming due, Remy decides to go on the run and attempt to bring down The Union with the help of Beth (Alice Braga), a comely fellow debtor who is running almost entirely on replacement parts except for her heart (Irony Alert!) and her lips (Alert of Another Kind!) while trying to stay one step ahead of the repo men that are after him. (That said, Remy seems to be in more genuine danger during his big love scene with Beth--sure, she looks like Alice Braga and her lips are real but for the most part, he is essentially having sex with the world’s hottest can opener.)

Many observers, at least those with nothing better to do than analyze bizarre futuristic gore movies involving morally conflicted people messily repossessing artificial organs from people who have fallen behind on the payments, have noted that the basic premise of “Repo Men” was seen a couple of years earlier in “Repo: The Genetic Opera,” a strange wannabe cult movie from the people responsible for the “Saw” films featuring the likes of Paul Sorvino, Sarah Brightman and Paris Hilton singing amidst the arterial sprays. While the similarities between the two are striking enough to make one wonder why one camp hasn’t already sued the hell out of the other, it turns out that “Repo: The Genetic Opera” is hardly the only notable title to have had its most notable bits plucked and reconstructed here--the story is essentially a cross between “Logan’s Run” and the Monty Python skit where the guy who signed an organ donor card is horrified to discover that doctors have come for his liver even though he is still using it (in an especially cheeky move, the film even includes a clip from this on a television at one point) along with scraps from the likes of “Brazil,” “Blade Runner,” “Dark City” and the violent futuristic satires of Paul Verhoeven, specifically “Robocop” and “Total Recall.” With its mixture of jet-black humor and blood-red violence set upon the backdrop of an exceptionally dyspeptic dystopia, director Miguel Sapochnik is definitely trying to get a Verhoeven vibe going here but the end result is a lot closer to “Robocop 2” than to “Robocop.“ There is plenty of gruesome violence on display and numerous stabs (no pun intended) at social satire as well but outside of a couple of amusing bits here and there (including the revelation of the identity of a back-alley surgeon and a climactic sort-of love scene involving scalpels), the brutality is tired and graceless and the jokes are even more so.

Another problem is that while Sapochnik establishes the premise of the story quickly enough, he fails to explain it in depth or in detail--we never learn why everyone in the world of the film seems to be in need of new organs or how The Union is able to stay in business and keep a lid on their dirty secret when they appear to be yanking out dozens of organs every night--and he never quite manages to convincingly establish a future, even a near-future, in which all of this is happening save for one glorious shot of a seemingly endless room filled with silent white-clad workers building new parts for the marketplace; apparently recycling still hasn’t caught on in this future. And outside of Liev Schreiber, who pretty much nails every one of his scenes as the corporate weasel, the rest of the cast is pretty much wasted throughout--for the cinematic crime hiring the delightful Carice van Houten, best-known for her knockout performance in Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” and then giving her the nothing supporting role of Remy’s nagging wife, Sapochnik should have a couple of his own parts forcibly removed.

Too dull to work as a thriller, too familiar to work as a visionary glimpse of the future and to silly to work as satire, “Repo Men” is one of those movies where everyone involved clearly decided early on that its premise was so brilliant and audacious that people would be so knocked out by it that they wouldn’t notice its lack of originality, excitement or a point. As I have pointed out, it does have a couple of amusing moments here and there and in the hands of people willing to take the time to fully flesh out the concept, it might have turned into the kind of admirably sleazy B-movie classic that it clearly wants to be. Sadly, the best one can say about this one is that it may be slightly better than “Repo: The Genetic Opera” and that is only because it isn’t a musical. For the most part, however, this is one film in which the whole is much less than the sum of its parts.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18524&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/19/10 01:00:00
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User Comments

3/10/11 Chris F i enjoyed this film not as bad as i expected 4 stars
8/15/10 Robert Smith Given the low expectations from "above," I thought it was good enough for a view! 4 stars
5/05/10 pin Logan's Run, Minority Report, Matrix, Blade Runner - Done SO POORLY: it's TERRIBLE. 1 stars
5/04/10 J I expected more, but the acting was good. 3 stars
3/29/10 damalc not terribly original, but still good, great acting again by FW 3 stars
3/22/10 Jiz So in 90 days will this movie's implanted Saw scenes and Total Recall plot get repo'd? 3 stars
3/20/10 mr.mike The leads make it worth a watch. 4 stars
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  19-Mar-2010 (R)
  DVD: 27-Jul-2010


  DVD: 27-Jul-2010

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