Some directors just can’t help but wear their influences on their sleeves. While some may scoff at a first-timer taking these measures, let us not forget when Quentin Tarantino made his grand cinematic entrance with Reservoir Dogs 18 years ago. Director Miguel Sapochnik may not be up to the standards we now expect from Tarantino, but his debut film Repo Men is definitely a hodgepodge of many movies we’ve already seen.
Repo Men is based on the novel The Repossession Mambo, adapted by its author Eric Garcia (also author of the highly under-seen Matchstick Men) and co-written by TV vet Garrett Lerner. It must be fun to adapt one’s own novel for the big screen as it could either allow the author to condense some things while expanding others or possibly do both at the same time. If the original novel is anywhere near as much fun as the film is, at times it probably makes for a fantastic beach or airplane read.
Set in the near future, a company called The Union has developed a way to manufacture any organ one could possibly want in life if it were to need replacing. But it’s not just the organs that come with a price. The Union is outfitted with their own brand of repo men who are dispatched to reclaim your organ if you run past due on payment. The best repo men in the business happen to be lifelong friends, Remy (Jude Law) and Jake (Forest Whitaker).
Remy and Jake make good money harvesting organs back for The Union but Remy’s chosen profession is beginning to take its toll back at home. His wife Carol (Carice van Houten) nags him every chance she gets to talk to his boss, Frank (Liev Schreiber), about making a move from repo to sales. Jake knows that repo is what’s in Remy’s heart and is put off by Remy even contemplating a change in profession. But after Carol and their son Peter (Chandler Canterbury) witness Jake performing a drive-by repo in the back of a taxi, she gives Remy an ultimatum and leaves with son in tow.
Remy wants to do good by his wife and decides to take one last job but things go awry as a faulty defibrillator sends Remy to the hospital where he wakes up to find himself under the worst worker’s comp settlement ever. The Tin Man has been given a new heart but after his first solo night back on the job he finds that his heart’s just not in it anymore. He never wanted the heart implanted but knows that death is the only way out so it’s business as usual with Jake at his side; but of course Remy can’t keep up on his payments.
Now Remy must take evasive action to get himself taken out of the system with the help of random drug-addicted hottie Beth (Alive Braga). Beth and Remy immediately hit it off and after playing a game of “my implants are more numerous than yours,” they do what anyone who’s just met does in an R-rated movie — consummate the relationship. Remy tries to bargain with Frank but it all comes down to fighting his way into The Union’s corporate offices to take himself and the new girl of his dreams out of the system and save their lives.
Set to the tune of old school crooner standards jazzed up for modern audiences, director Sapochnik and his two writers take a blender and just start piling in as many random movie references as they can think of with liberal amounts of blood and viscera for added texture. The film bounces around from Moulin Rouge, Minority Report, Children of Men and The Bionic Woman, to Oldboy, Next, Total Recall and even Brazil. And finally, what movie about repo men harvesting body organs would be complete without a nod to Monty Python?
As the blood flows freely and we get to bear witness to the most grisly yet hilariously disgusting faux-sex scene possibly ever filmed, once it reached the denouement I was originally conflicted with the film’s ending. After talking it out with another critic, however, the ending makes perfect sense. If you sit down knowing what to expect then prepare to have a blast. It’s a comedy of darkest proportions and wallows in gallows humor but the ride is worth the trip even if we’ve seen it all before.
Photo courtesy Universal Pictures