By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on March 20, 2010)
Inside scoopers: Jude Law and Forest Whitaker in Repo Men
You could say that the new sci-fi action thriller Repo Men is a film with heart-as well as kidneys, livers, lungs and the odd spleen. David Cronenberg meets John Woo at the corner of Brazil and Logan’s Run in this dystopian vision of a near-future in which life-extending high-tech advancements in organ replacement have become available to all.
Teabaggers needn’t panic-it isn’t a government-sponsored health care program; as long as you flash a credit card, make a down payment and sign up for an EZ installment plan, you too can be the happy recipient of a shiny new mechanical bladder (hopefully bereft of any “sudden acceleration” issues). There is one catch. If your account goes delinquent, a repo man is sent to retrieve it…with no regards as to anything else it might be attached to.
Organ repo is a messy job, but somebody has to do it; somebody who is stealthy, skilled with knives, impervious to pleas for mercy, has a good gag reflex and doesn’t mind paperwork. Remy (Jude Law) and his long time partner Jake (Forest Whitaker) are two such men. For example, Jake has no problem excusing himself from a backyard barbecue to perform a quick “favor”-the unceremonious disembowelment of a deadbeat client in the driveway, then returning to the business of grilling hot dogs and shooting the shit with family and co-workers. As he reminds Remy, “A job… is a job.”
Remy has been suffering through a personal crisis . His wife (Carice van Houten) is at the end of her rope; she’s tired of him leapngi out of bed at 3am to go running off into the night so he can yank out some hapless debtor’s entrails in order to keep food on the table. Under threat of separation, she’s pressuring him to go into sales-but he’s a repo man, through and through, and knows he’s not, erm, cut out for sales (you could say he’s more of an “opener” than a “closer”). The weaselly head of sales (Liev Schreiber) knows that as well-Remy is his number one man in the field, and he’d prefer to keep him there.
Fate intervenes when Remy suffers a heart attack while out on a call. Awakening from a coma, he discovers that he’s being kept alive with a “Jarvik-39”. The bad news is that he can’t recall signing the sales contract that now makes him an indebted client of his own employer, which makes him subject to that fine print about overdue accounts. I’ll give you three guesses as to what happens next.
Although Repo Men borrows freely from the films I mentioned earlier, it is directed with a certain amount of verve by Miguel Sapochnik. The screenplay, adapted by Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner from Garcia’s own novel The Repossession Mambo, works best when it waxes satirical, which helps take the edge off the gruesome aspects.
Although I am quite squeamish when it comes to blood and guts, the “repossessions” didn’t bother me; perhaps because it was so over the top as to be cartoonish. The action scenes are stylish and well-choreographed, which moves things along. One kinky and visceral scene sure to have audiences buzzing involves Law and Alice Braga (as a character who is like the Bionic Woman-with bad credit). I wouldn’t exactly call it a “sex” scene, but it is consensual, and does involve penetration (that’s all I’m prepared to disclose at this time).
I’ve gleaned some fan boy hysteria on the web concerning this film’s alleged similarities to the indie musical Repo: The Genetic Opera, which I have not seen, nor frankly had ever heard of until I was doing some background research for my review. So alas, I can only offer ambivalence regarding this particular issue. Then again, if I allowed myself to lose sleep over every Hollywood script that was cloned from another Hollywood script, I would suffer terminal insomnia.
It is kismet that the film is opening just as the health care bill debacle is coming to a head. I’m sure the filmmakers see that merely as happy coincidence, as I didn’t sense any purposeful political subtext (aside that one could interpret the film to represent the speculative extreme of an unregulated free market-health care system, just as Robocop did for the concept of corporate-run law enforcement). Aw, hell, I’m thinking too much. See it for the cool action scenes.