One can’t really discuss the new science fiction film Repo Men without mentioning the ten or so other films it steals from whole-hog. It’s a no-brainer that the entire premise is lifted from 2008’s silly b-picture Repo! The Genetic Opera but because Repo Men takes on the story with a completely different tone I’m willing to let that brazen theft go. What I can’t get past is how a speculative sci-fi movie like this insists that its audience to leave their own speculation at the door in order in order to buy into its paper-thin premise.
Jude Law plays Remy a Repo Man in the near future where folks can buy artificial organs of all sorts from a generic Mega Corporation of Evil. Remy and his partner/best friend Jake (Forest Whitaker) get their marching orders from bureaucrat Frank (Liev Schreiber) who sends them out to reclaim their company’s organs from folks who can’t make their payments. They do this by killing them cutting them open and putting the organs in ziplock bags to bring back to the company which rescans them to sell to the next desperate customer. When a piece of company equipment malfunctions and injures Remy he has to take a company organ himself or die. Since he's no longer earning a regular paycheck it’s not long before his own ticker's account is past due. Soon the hunter becomes the hunted with even Remy's pal Jake joining the pursuit.
Repo Men starts out on the wrong foot. Its dystopian world is clearly meant to serve as a metaphor for today’s credit-card company outrages but it just isn't believable. Call me naive but I think there’ll come a point in the future when folks no matter how much you train them to be sheep will refuse to tolerate certain bad business practices and debt collectors going around ripping organs out of delinquent customers is way past that point. Whey they’re needed at all is another question: If these bodyparts all have GPS systems installed to help the Repo Men to find them why couldn’t they just be programmed with remote ‘off’ switches? The holes in the story are bigger and more numerous than the many gaping wounds that Remy and the rest of the Repo Men leave in pretty much every character without a main-title credit.
But the greatest problem with Repo Men lies with its main character. I get having the flawed hero the ex-bad guy who finds out everything he believed in was untrue and who turns against the system as seen in films like Equilibrium or Total Recall. And I get having the life-long killer who through circumstance begins to understand who he really is and slowly starts to change for the better like in 3:10 to Yuma. But Remy is a dude who we’re told has been a real monster since he was a kid but whose perspective changes when he is forced into the same circumstances as his victims. There are no revelations about how the company does business or hidden secrets uncovered about how he became who he is....he’s just traumatized from the experience and fighting for his life (and still killing people it should be said rather indiscriminately). He’s so entirely badly drawn in fact that I was rooting for him to die at the hands of Beth (Alice Braga) the artificial organ-ridden hottie who he forcibly saves from herself as near as I can tell only because he wants to sex her up. What a likable guy.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the few things to like here. Law and Whitaker certainly give it their all with the Last King of Scotland star milking his affability as hard as he can to sell a part that only is interesting because of what he does with it. And first-time director Miguel Sapochnik generate some downright striking imagery -- and some well-done images of folks striking each other. Few directors today can effectively craft extended fight scenes but Sapochnik certainly has a flair for them even though he doesn’t so much as borrow from his influences as he lifts entire scenes wholesale from them. Which is why Repo Men in the end is exactly what it sounds like: a film shoddily assembled from the vital parts of other far superior films.