Review of Repo Men
March 23, 2010
In a world where corporations own people (or parts of them), falling behind on payments is a matter of life and death. Repo Men is like a NASCAR crash: bloody fun, but little more than morbid curiosity holds your interest in it.
The Union, a multinational synthetic organ manufacturer will sell almost anyone an organ on credit. Remy (Jude Law), a repo man for the Union, enjoys his job of removing organs from the bodies of deadbeats who have fallen behind on their payments. His best friend Jake (Forest Whitaker), mercilessly repossess parts from anyone more than ninety days behind. It isn't until Jake comes face to face with the real cost of his actions that he becomes a repo outlaw, trying to keep two people from getting their parts repossessed.
Have you ever noticed that in the Olympics, there are two kinds of figure skaters—the ones who go for the double axel because they know they can land it every time, and the ones who go for the triple but sometimes land flat on their bums? Repo Men, based on the book Repossession Mambo, is the failed triple. It tries to be fun and make a socially relevant point, and it throws in a love story for good measure. It successfully makes it through the first rotation but can't pull off the other two.
The 'love story' is actually two different love stories. Both are pseudo-BDSM nightmares that left me wishing for a chastity belt and glad I have a small circle of friends. Remy and his partner Jake have been together since the military and have shared each other's lives and one vice: violence. Jude Law and Forest Whitaker don't have the chemistry necessary to pull off a relationship of such importance to their characters. There doesn't seem to be any intimacy between the two. Law completely lacks any spark with his female romantic interest as well. His relationship with Beth (Alice Braga) starts off unnaturally, which is more of a writing problem than an acting problem, but as the relationship progresses, Law and Braga never emotionally connect. Both relationships boil down to co-dependent quagmires.
It is really hard to express a theme when talking out of both sides of the cinematic mouth. One finds it difficult to be truly captured by a movie espousing the dangers of allowing yourself to be owned by your debt and not allow corporations to own a piece of you when it is dotted every five minutes with product placement. Yes, director Miguel Sapochnik, I did notice the crush your camera man has on VWs, the cell phone ads in bright colors during your dark movie, and various other 'strategically' placed ads. Hypocrite much, Miguel? I find it hard to hear your speech about the dangers of corporate overlords when you are kneeling in front of one during your pontification. Not only is it annoying, it's damned insulting. This form of subversive advertising is bad enough, but coupling it with an anti-corporate message is downright vomitous.
Even worse, Repo Men ignores the first rule of loan sharks: a dead person cannot pay their bills. It makes no good legal or business sense to kill the people to get their parts back. This would be a far more compelling story if the people became slaves until they were out of debt, which of course the corporation would never allow to happen. Killing someone to take the part back makes no symbolic or literal sense.
Sense aside, Repo Men is mindless fun. If the filmmakers and the studio would have just stuck with that, it might have been a fantasticly good time. There is amazing close-quarters fight choreography that left me gasping, dodging, and my heart pounding. Blood comes by the gallon, but, much to the credit of the director, stops before it becomes a prop or character of its own. If Repo Men were made up entirely of the extremely exciting fight scenes, it would be an out of this world flick.
Alas, there is talking, kissing, and advertising between the fight scenes in Repo Men. People who never think when they go to the movies might enjoy Repo Men, but I suspect anyone who calls himself a skeptic will experience the same half-climaxed frustration I suffered.