I saw Repo Men last Friday.
I loved this movie!
No, really, I was half expecting it to be total cheese, but it was surprisingly good. I read a review before hand wherein a reviewer complained that there was no dark humor in this film. Frankly, I wonder if we saw the same movie, because, though there wasn’t a laugh track, there was tones and tones of dark humor. Though, maybe some of it was lost on the reviewer and, frankly, the audience I saw the movie with, too. Thankfully, my usual movie companion is a fellow cancer survivor who has a similar sense of humor and we were laughing at the same things.
So, first, know that this is a bloody film. It’s not gory in a slasher sense of things, but there is a lot of carving on people as well as shooting and other fighting action.
Remember, the basic premise of the film is that, in the future, The Union has cornered the market on artificial, replacement organs. Anyone who has a problem with, say, their liver or their kidneys or their heart or their lungs, can go to The Union and get a perfect artificial replacement. For a fee. In fact, for very, very large fees, which the Union will let you pay them off at “reasonable rates to fit any lifestyle”. Of course, those “reasonable rates” aren’t very reasonable. And, the Union will send someone to repossess their property if payments aren’t made. Yeah, that’s right, they’ll repossess your heart.
The story follows two repo men as they hustle their way through this futuristic dystopia of corporate greed and consumer debt. They’re hard, brutal men, like many repo men are, only more so.
Jake, played by Forest Whitaker, loves his job. He loves the work, the people, the fear that he strikes into the hearts of others. His partner, Remy, played by Jude Law, is less into the work and he’s getting pressure from his wife to get into a safer, more savory, line of work anyway. But, then, something happens on what Remy plans as his last job. There’s a malfunction, a short-circuit and Remy finds himself in need of the Union’s special hardware. He wakes up with a Union “heart” keeping him alive and a massive debt schedule. The only problem is, now, he doesn’t have the heart to repossess other people’s organs.
So, that’s the setup, and if you want to avoid the spoilers, stop reading here.
The problem is, Remy defaults on his heart and goes on the run. Naturally, the barely human local Union rep, Frank, played by Liev Schreiber, sends Jake, Remy’s old partner, to collect. Remy knows all the tricks, though, and off he goes into that strange place that’s off the grid in a future world ruled by a network of data that we’re only just starting to be aware of now. Along the way, he picks up a torch singer who also happens to be riddled with organs on which she’s defaulted. She introduces him to the black market and the underground economy. The chase is long and winding and ends up in the heart of the Union itself. I won’t tell you how it ends, but it is a surprise and a twist, but it’s not disappointing in the slightest and it is a real surprise.
Now, there are a couple of things that I think are interesting about this movie.
First, I can’t tell if they’re making an homage to Blade Runner, or if they’re making fun of it. The sets and settings all remind me, and every other reviewer out there, of Blade Runner and Ridley Scott’s vision of a future L.A. It also reminds me of William Gibson’s descriptions of a gritty future. But, it still works, either way. Also, that future is interestingly contrasted with a shrinking suburban landscape where Remy lives. A setting, incidentally, that also becomes a backdrop for at least on bloody repossession by Jake. The contrast is, well, a little shocking, even to someone as jaded as me.
Secondly, there’s a scene where Remy and Beth, the torch singer, cut into each other to scan their defaulted organs. Remy only has the one, but the part of the scene where he inserts the scanner into her goes on, um, somewhat longer. Though this was a bloody and gruesome scene, it was also disturbingly erotic, which I found a little unnerving. It’s not an entirely bad thing, but it was a surprise to see in a major motion picture, even one that’s R-rated. So, you’ve been warned.
Thirdly, the music was used expertly in this movie. The contrast of happy, pleasant “elevator” music during a violent scene is, at first, funny, but eventually, a kind of beautiful, violent dance that takes on a kind of surreal feel that was really fantastic. Music can certainly enhance a film and the director really makes fantastic use of it in this movie.
Right, so, here’s the thing. I loved this movie which I found fun and yet insightful and filled with the darkest of black humor. The entire theme is a commentary on the current health care crisis and the American personal debt crisis as well. I found a personal connection with that bit because of my own medical bills as a cancer survivor. They do seem never ending and oppressive at times as I’m sure they do for millions of other Americans who are far worse off than I am. So, I’m not sure how that will sit with the general viewing public, but it really hit home for me and, yet, also tapped into my own, personal reserves of black humor.
So, as I was mentioning, I loved this movie, but I imagine it’s not for everyone. It is dark, and violent, and bloody, and bleak, in it’s way, in the outlook on where things are going in our society, especially in regards to healthcare, debt and personal responsibility. But it does end with a kind of hope, in a strange and twisty way.
I can’t recommend this film for everyone, but if you’re open to something new and different and dark and violent, then this is your film. I suggest you take a chance, roll the dice and go see it, especially if you like science fiction, but even if you don’t.
If you’re not sure, then hit a matinee and minimize your risk.
Go ahead, take a chance.
(Sorry this is so late this week, but I’ve been busy and working late.)