Repo Men (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
29Jul/100

Repo Men (2010)

Andrew DISLIKEI was fighting off the urge to vomit during large portions of Repo Men.  If you're the type that has some kind of fetish for throbbing, bloody meat then you might enjoy these sections.  There's one scene later on in the film that runs so thick with a BDSM sexual undercurrent, that those same folks might run off to the bathroom for an entirely separate purpose.

However, those folks aren't reviewing this film.  That's an unfortunate task that I take on for myself, and am now in the throes of immense regret.

Repo Men takes place in the "near future" where artificial organs can be bought wholesale if you can't get them the fresh from the source.  For the low, low price of $600,000 (I'm assuming the film is adjusting for inflation) you can purchase any perfectly functioning organ you need.  This is a blessing for folks that can keep up with the payments and high interest rate.  For those that can't, a special team of men is ready with tazers and an unnecessary array of weaponry to repossess the technology.

The conflict in the film comes from Remy (Jude Law), who's been one of the repo men for many years and is urged by his wife to take a relaxing desk job.  Apparently, the fact that he's sent out with an arsenal that would make a small country envious is not comforting to her.  But his sympathy goes out to one unfortunate target, and after an accident Remy is fitted with an artificial heart from the company.  This puts him into conflict with the organization, furthers his sympathy with the customers who can't pay their bills, and influences his defection and attempt to take down the company.

We're made to witness scene after scene of reclamation where the repo men tase and hack out the organ using cutlery that is the size of a large branch.  No expense is spared on the blood and guts side of things.  If you aren't familiar with the inner working of the human body, you'll at least have a better idea of how messy it is to cut into it.  This same splattery approach is extended to the fight scenes, where limbs are hacked off, heads detached, and lot's of perfectly good white space is dyed with blood.

I've seen worse violence in films, but this made me uncomfortable because the director (Miguel Sapochnik) is never quite sure how to pitch the impromptu surgeries.  They're so over the top that we get the sense they're intended as comedy, but are undone by the overly grim production and sound design that they are squeamish instead.  One scene with Remy's partner, Jake (Forest Whitaker), features him carving up a guy in the back seat of a taxi while wearing a chef's apron during a cookout.  This could have worked as black comedy, but the constant squishing of the soundtrack and emphasis on watching every single incision push the moment into the grotesque.

Further complicating things is the fact that all of the repo men are nothing but brutal thugs.  We see that Jake and Remy became friends because, when they were kids, they could beat each other up a lot and the other would still come back for more punishment.  Now they've grown up and push that same kind of punishment on poor folks that are trying to make their payments but can't.  The film tries to give Remy a poetic spirit by making him a writer, but it feels like a tacked on contrivance for some late film developments and incredibly phony sentiment with his eventual change of attitude.

Repo Men clearly wants to be a black comedy, but can't separate itself far enough from the incredible amount of gore to make an original statement.  Worse, it "borrows" entire sequences from better films that had something to say, and tries to pass them off as it's own stylish creations.  The famous hammer sequence from Oldboy is recreated almost shot for shot (with knives for added originality), the city is lifted directly out of Blade Runner and then promptly concealed, and the ending is lifted directly from Brazil.

That may be a spoiler for some, but I don't even like Brazil very much and would much prefer to endure that instead of watching this geek show again.

The actors escape with their dignity intact by playing the material as straight as possible.  It's all so tonally inconsistent that if they tried to play it as a joke it would have been far worse (see: Kick-Ass).  But I was grateful for a late film cameo by John Leguizamo as a sort of black market organ merchant.  He showcases charisma that is sorely missing from the rest of the film, and leaves an impression other than nausea.

There's probably a good movie buried somewhere in the premise (I would love to see someone like Croenenburg handle the same material), but Repo Men is so horribly handled that the violence is all it really has to offer.  Since it's that same quality that nearly sent me to the bathroom, instead of watching the film, it's not exactly the ringing endorsement it was going for.

Repo Men (2010)

Directed by Miguel Sapochnik.
Written by Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner.
Starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker.

Posted by Andrew

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