Theatrical Review: Repo Men

In the near future (the time-frame isn’t really specified here), those in failing health and need new organs seek out the services of The Union. The Union offers artificial organs (called Artiforgs) at exorbitant prices with hard sell tactics. There’s just one catch: failure of payment means the company has the full right to take back their product, often with the result being the recipient’s life. The people that do this are the Union’s own Repo Men, and this is the story of one of their own, Remy. Remy, while doing his duties, finds himself the victim of faulty equipment and then in need of the Union’s services himself, needing an artificial heart. Unfortunately for Remy, he can’t make the payment…

That’s the high-concept premise to Repo Men, a movie that I was looking forward to thanks to a pretty good trailer. It’s a shame that it’s end result is a mess.

Let’s start with it’s premise- OK, I can buy the idea of these artificial organs and people paying exorbitant prices for them, but nothing is offered on just how we got to that situation in the first place. Sure inferences with the current times can be made, but they don’t make them and they don’t go into the legalities. Now this wouldn’t have taken much to do, just a few minutes at the start of the movie to put this in perspective would’ve been fine. But that’s not this movie’s concern, it just wants to get moving.

So it does get moving, but then it runs into other problems. These problems are tonal shifts that just don’t gel. From it’s opening, in which we see Remy doing his thing in bloody violent fashion, you get the idea that this is going to be a pretty black comedy, but once things turn differently it starts to take itself way too seriously.

Then, there’s two twists that the movie takes that cheapens everything else that came before it. In most movies, we get one twist like this, and it either works or it doesn’t, but here we have two. One is subtle and one isn’t and both had me thinking they weren’t ever needed.

I’ve heard people looking at the similarities of this and Darren Lynn Bousman’s movie, Repo! The Genetic Opera. I haven’t seen Repo! (though I want to) so I can’t really comment on those similarities. But I saw plenty of similarities to other movies, things like Children of Men, Total Recall, Brazil and an ending fight sequence that’s taken straight from Oldboy. Now I don’t mind movies showing their influences, but it really only works when it’s in the hands of a skilled director who can make it work. I don’t think Miguel Sapochnik has the chops for this.

This really needed to be in the hands of someone like either Paul Verhoeven or David Cronenberg. Verhoeven would’ve ran with the black comedy aspects. Cronenberg would’ve really played with the serious aspects. Either would’ve set their tone and ran with it all the way through. I expect that both would’ve given you enough back story to justify the situations and not raising questions about aspects of the practices.

Jude Law plays Remy, Forest Whitaker plays his partner, Jake and Liev Schreiber plays their boss, Frank. They really do their best to rise above the material, but it just never really comes together. Remy’s not really that sympathetic a character, so it’s hard to give a damn about what happens to him in the end. Both Jake and Frank seem more like they’d be at home in Paul Verhoeven’s version of this movie and so when this moves in to being overly serious, they’re just cartoons. Alice Braga plays Beth, a woman Remy falls for after his troubles begin and she shows another side to the central ideas here. That idea being that people aren’t just getting the artiforgs for their health. That’s about all that this character brings to this. Well, I take that back, she also serves to further make Remy unsympathetic. Remy, at the start of this is a married man with a son. His wife is pretty responsible and is horrified at what Remy does for a living. But Remy’s really good at what he does, and actually enjoys it, until the tables turn and he finds himself on the other end. But then it’s too late for his current relationship, and he falls for Beth, though there’s little given as to why he should, other than he just heard her singing at a nightclub one night.

There’s a decent idea here, but it just isn’t given enough background to make you really believe it. It’s tonal shifts just don’t gel together and you could really care less for it’s main character. In the hands of a more skilled director, this could’ve been a pretty good sci-fi experience but as it stands, Repo Men is a big mess.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

21. March 2010 by Darren Goodhart
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