Repo Men is a movie I wish someone could repo from my memory banks. It was the biggest waste of two hours of my life since Avatar (and possibly longer, since it’s not a film that has the cultural valence of James Cameron’s mega-hit), and I damn near walked out on it. Ultimately I’m glad I didn’t, because the ending presented a twist that moved the film a couple steps closer to not quite terrible…but not anywhere near enough. It was still terrible.
So what was so wrong with it?
First, let me outline my expectations: it seemed like it would be an interesting future dystopia–I mean, come on, a future where people who can’t pay medical debt get their artificial organs repo’ed? If that’s not dystopian, I don’t know what is. And I also expected it to be a somewhat tongue-in-cheek or self-aware absurdity; again, a future where people get organs repo’ed? That’s absurd. It comes straight out of an old Monty Python sketch, in fact (which the film nodded to by showing on a TV screen in one scene), and they were masters of the absurd. Perhaps if Terry Gilliam, star of the sketch, had been the director, Repo Men could have been a brilliant, bloody, hilarious mess of a movie.
But he didn’t. The directing was uninspired and uninspiring…for this being the future, there was almost nothing futuristic about it, and what little there was seemed to be cribbed–poorly–from Bladerunner. There were a couple cityscapes that we’ve seen in other movies, done better, and the rest of the time everything looked like a darker, danker, version of now. Weapons and armor technology had apparently regressed, and in this universe the iPad apparently failed because when presented with a computer console that “has no keyboard,” one character is hopelessly confused by it. The action wasn’t very interesting or exciting, and neither were the deaths creative or unique. If the action and/or gore had been over-the-top, it might have been entertaining, but they were just as half-assed as every other part of this production.
The story also seemed like a cheap derivation of Bladerunner, or maybe a derivation of a derivation. An organ repossessor (Jude Law) gets an artificial heart after an accident and suddenly begins to see the people he harvests organs from as people not…whatever non-person-like beings he saw them as before. Suddenly unable to continue his job, and therefore unable to continue making payments on his new heart, he goes underground to try and escape his erstwhile partner (Forest Whitaker) and the other repossessors who are sent after him. The story was weak and unbelievable (he works for the artificial organ company and they don’t have options for organs, really? Especially when his equipment malfunctioned on a job for them? Really?), and the characters were not sympathetic. I don’t know how they got actors of the caliber of Law and Whitaker to take these parts, but even a pair of talented guys like them could only do so much with the script they were given.
The characters were flawed, and not in a good way…they were just inconsistent and illogical. Law’s character has a wife who, after enough years of his working as a repo man to be top-level, suddenly demands he change positions so he doesn’t have to do it anymore…way to grow a conscience AFTER he’s bought you a nice house the “unconscionable” way. Law suddenly can’t bring himself to repo any organs and effectively kill their erstwhile owner, but yet he has no compunctions whatsoever about killing lawmen, security guards, and other repo men? I mean, go full peacenik or go home. His hypocrisy was maddening. Then there was the subplot of the drugged-out street girl he falls in love with, and her whole counterculture scene of people who are living under the radar because they can’t pay for their organs. I didn’t care about a single one of them, including her, because you know what? With all the things she had to have replaced in order to stay alive, in an evolutionary sense she needed to be dead. Also their entire lifestyle reminded me of the musical Rent, where none of them had jobs and none of them wanted to pay rent. In the words of the big Lebowski, “Why don’t you do what your father did, and get a job, sir?” Why do I care about any of these social dropouts who can’t function in the real world? And why are these all of a sudden the people he wants to protect over those with actual livelihoods and a sense of civic responsibility?
The whole thing was just utterly ridiculous, but not in a good way. I think the end shows it was trying to be absurd, in an extended sequence of what I would call “cutter porn”–he and the street girl making a sexual game of opening her up and scanning all her fake organs to try and clear her from further pursuit–but it was too little, too late. The movie was nonsensical and poorly paced, as well as being boring. I almost walked out in two different parts of it. The ending was more humanitarian than I expected and made Whitaker’s character the one sympathetic one of the entire set, but overall this movie was a bomb and a half. It wasn’t even good for the laughs you sometimes find in movies that are tragically bad, so it’s best avoided altogether.
Elena Nola is the imperial movie critic and the colder half of the Ladies of Ice and Fire.