Repo Men Blu-ray review
This science fiction action movie starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker failed to catch fire at the box office, but can it find an audience on Blu-ray? Ryan finds out…
Of all the many, many films I’ve sat through this year so far, none has been as bewilderingly schizophrenic as director Miguel Sapochnik’s Repo Men. It’s an awkward, stumbling mess of a movie, by turns intelligent and dim-witted, thought provoking and brash.
At its core a traditional dystopian sci-fi piece about the soul destroying repetition of work and the cruelty of corporate greed, much of Repo Men‘s subtler ideas are washed away on a tidal wave of blood and bullets.
Jude Law is cast against type as Remy, a blue collar ex-soldier who now works for the Union, a shadowy organisation that sells its state-of-the-art replacement internal organs at a hefty premium. With most of the populace repaying crippling loans for their shiny new hearts and lungs, Remy’s the future equivalent of the grim reaper. Those who fail to keep up with their repayments will find him standing on their doorstep, scalpel in hand.
Far from the put-upon corporate pawn, Remy approaches his job with surprising good humour, with both he and his partner Jake (Forest Whitaker, who’s reliably excellent) enjoying jovial, frat boy moments of camaraderie between their impromptu tabletop operations.
That is, until Remy experiences a literal and figurative change of heart. Critically injured by an apparently malfunctioning defibrillator, Remy wakes up in a hospital bed as the unwilling recipient of a Union replacement ticker. Now saddled with a crushing debt of his own, Remy comes to a greater understanding of his previous crimes, and despite the best efforts of his friend Jake, simply can’t cope with the thought of carrying out any more messy repossessions.
Without a decent income to pay for his six-figure heart, Remy’s forced to go on the run, with the similarly indebted Beth (Alice Braga) in tow (why he can’t just take up a job in a local supermarket isn’t explained).
Numerous scenes of gory action violence follow, as Remy attempts to outwit his ex-partner Jake and the blank-faced villainy of his former boss Frank (Liev Schreiber). Bad guys are despatched with a variety of guns, knives, hammers, and in one chortle-inducing instance, a typewriter.
While thoroughly desensitised fans of movies like Hostle won’t even flinch, Repo Men is nevertheless surprisingly graphic for a mainstream piece of sci-fi. Bodies are sliced open, heads caved in and most scenes conclude with at least one character covered in blood. In one sequence, a particularly untidy operation is shot and lit like a sex scene.
The constant flow of gore would be more effective if the film itself wasn’t such a mess. There are too many scenes detailing Remy’s crumbling relationship with his glacial wife Carol (Carice van Houten), his annoying, frat boy friendship with Jake, and his dull conversations about Romans with his creepy, dead-eyed son (Chandler Canterbury).
And by the time Remy’s new heart’s installed and he’s on the other side of the fence, fighting to keep the scalpels of his former colleagues away from his ribcage, the tension and forward momentum has all but vanished.
So effective in other genre films such as Gattaca, eXistenZ and AI, Law seems ill at ease with his role as a swaggering debt collector in Repo Men. Perhaps it’s the refined gentleness of his features, which his stubble and hours at the gym haven’t disguised, or maybe the muddled way in which his character’s been written. Jake is an icily efficient killer who enjoys electrocuting his friend during playful tussles, but also has aspirations as a writer, and even a workmanlike understanding of quantum theory.
It’s ironic that a film so preoccupied with spare parts and internal organs should itself prove to be something of a Frankenstein’s monster. Repo Men‘s glittering cities and rundown ghettos bear an obvious resemblance to films such as Metropolis and Blade Runner, its scenes of grim hand-to-hand combat obviously inspired by Old Boy, while its conclusion recalls Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.
Despite an excellent cast including John Leguizamo, who is wasted in a miniscule role, and a handful of queasily inventive ideas, Repo Men is ultimately an unsatisfying, messy pile of spare parts with only occasional twitches of life.
The Repo Men disc contains two cuts of the film: the shorter, tamer theatrical version, and a longer unrated version, which adds more gore, and even more talking.
Then there’s a series of seven faux commercials for the Union, approximately eight minutes of deleted scenes, and three minutes of VFX progressions, which show how CG was used to make a wintery Toronto look like a glittering city of the future.
Lastly, there’s a feature commentary with director Miguel Sapochnik and writers Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner, which is among the most jovial and relaxed commentary tracks I’ve ever heard, with quirky, sometimes witty recollections of the film’s making (Sapochnik’s favourite shot is, oddly, one of Law hosting a barbecue).
Repo Men will be released on Blu-ray on August 23 and can be pre-ordered from the Den Of Geek Store.