Whenever I saw an ad for this film leading up to its release, I could not help but think of Repo! The Genetic Opera, a stage play that was turned into a film in 2008 by director Darren Bousman (Saw II, II, IV). The basic plots contain some similarities. The biggest commonality is the fact that people can get replacement organs for a lot of money and if they do not pay, the parts are taken back the hard way. Other than that, the films go in different directions. Also, neither one ripped off the other; the two projects were developed independently of each other. Which one is better? I don't know, they both do different things. If I had to answer, I would say that while I enjoyed Repo Men I would surely find myself more often reaching for The Genetic Opera for multiple views.
Repo Men, based on the novel The Repossession Mambo by co-screenwriter Eric Garcia (who wrote the screenplay with Garrett Lerner), is a fun B-movie. It does not aspire to greatness; instead it seems to hide a satirical look at the medical system and the free business model under the guise of a bloody action film centering on a character forced to rebel against said system. That was quite the mouthful, wasn't it? How much it actually says about modern society, I am not sure. Suffice to say parallels can be drawn if one is so inclined. I was more interested in the universe itself and how the story plays itself out.
Remy (Jude Law) is a Union man. This means he works for the company that supplies artificial organs to those who need them, Hearts, livers, lungs, eyes — you name it, they make it. Due to the high cost of said parts, those in need sign financing agreements to pay for the work. When they fail to make their payments, Union men are sent in to reclaim the organ, much like having your car repossessed when you miss too many payments. The difference here is that often the repossession leaves the customer on a slab. Remy is very good at what he does. He gets in, gets the part, and gets out.
Despite how good he is, he is at a crossroads. His wife wants him out of this line of work, finding it distasteful. However, he also has his best friend Jake (Forest Whitaker) urging him to stay in the game. The unthinkable then happens — an accident requires Remy's heart be replaced. He knows he can't make the payments and ends up on the run.
This is where it starts to get a little bit interesting. When he makes the choice to go on the run, he also chooses to take on the whole system. What starts as a mission to save himself turns into a journey to save everyone being victimized by the corporation. Remy's adventure takes him into the bowels of his company's headquarters. What happens? You won't find out from me!
Now, to be sure, Repo Men is far from an original film. It begs, borrows, and steals from other better films but it still manages to make it all work. It begins strong with setting up the world, the rules, and the characters. It also ends very well as Remy charges towards the finish, complete with an homage to Oldboy and an oddly fetishistic sequence shortly thereafter. Oh, and the conclusion? It will surely knock you for a loop. Again, not original but still effective.
Repo Men is a movie that is not merely good or bad. It is a mixed bag of a project that is enjoyable as a B-movie. It tells an interesting story, but I have to wonder if their may have been a better way to tell it. Not that I know what that way might have been, but I can't help but feel there is a more epic story inside struggling to get out. As it stands, the mixture of B science fiction and social commentary is an interesting one.
Bottom line. This is an enjoyable movie, one that seems content to toe the line between popcorn muncher and social commentary without pushing too hard to actually be anything. In the end it is more forgettable than anything else. Fun for the moment, not destined for greatness.