In the futuristic action-thriller Repo Men, humans have extended and improved our lives through highly sophisticated and expensive mechanical organs created by a company called The Union. The dark side of these medical breakthroughs is that if you don't pay your bill, The Union sends its highly skilled repo men to take back its property... with no concern for your comfort or survival.
Remy (Jude Law) is one of the best organ repo men in the business. But when he suffers a cardiac failure on the job, he awakens to find himself fitted with the company's top-of-the-line heart-replacement... as well as a hefty debt. But a side effect of the procedure is that his heart's no longer in the job. When he can't make the payments, The Union sends its toughest enforcer, Remy's former partner Jake (Forest Whitaker), to track him down.
Now that the hunter has become the hunted, Remy joins Beth (Alice Braga), another debtor who teaches him how to vanish from the system. And as he and Jake embark on a chase across a landscape populated by maniacal friends and foes, one man will become a reluctant champion for thousands on the run.
This film has been modified from its original version to include additional material not in the original release.
Correction: This film borrows sparingly from a more intelligent film, and suffers from excesses not found in its originator...and that's a scary thought, considering how high on excess that film was!
I won't lie...I wanted to take a cheap shot at 'Repo Men' from the minute I found out about it. Originality is hard to come by in modern cinema, so for any film to rehash the themes of 'Repo! The Genetic Opera,' only sans the singing, and turn it into a generic sci-fi action thriller, it just reinforces the cliche of Hollywood being out of ideas. Sure, it goes without mention that this film is adapted from 'The Repossession Mambo.' But, since said novel came out a full twelve years after the first stage iteration of the musical, it's hard to say that said author wasn't influenced by viewing or reading about the work of Darren Smith, Terrance Zdunich, and Darren Lynn Bousman.
That being said, no, I didn't hate this film as much as I feared I might, but that doesn't mean I'm going to sing its praises, either.
In the not-too-distant future, where characters don't get last names, technology reigns supreme, and organ transplants are no longer dependent on donors, The Union grants those with defective or failing body parts the chance to live life to the fullest, with new, improved robotic body parts. Of course, with amazingly high prices, these body parts are sold much like houses, with installment plans, and a 19.99% APR (brutal!). If you can't pay your debt, you may find that the repossession clause is a killer!
Remy (Jude Law) is the best at what he does. He's a Repo Man. When he isn't surgically removing body parts from delinquent accounts, he's trying to make up for his questionable career choice with his wife (Carice van Houten), and just live a normal life. His co-hort, Jake (Forest Whitaker), may very well be the personification of the little devil on one's shoulder, giving advice lacking in any moral integrity, as the two adrenaline junkies push each other to new heights in the business...until a job goes wrong, and Remy finds himself in the shoes of his former customers, the recipient of an implanted heart. Apparently new hearts come with a conscience, as Remy becomes incapable of doing the job he used to do so well, and soon finds himself as a candidate for repossession. His only chance is to stick it to the man (Liev Schreiber as Frank), and the many men above him at The Union, fighting back for all those he used to slaughter, regardless of if they had a spouse, or children.
It's somewhat ironic that a film that spends so much time discussing Schrödinger's cat is a perfect example of said paradox. Is it alive, or is it dead, just rotting in the box? It's all about ideas that don't quite come to fruition and don't have a clear answer, with few payoffs, just more twists and turns than an infinity sign. After a while, the whole point becomes moot, devolving from a thinking man's action thriller to your basic futuristic sci-fi trash romp, so overloaded in its excesses that it makes the 'Saw' films look reserved.
'Repo Men' is spoiled by problems far greater than its dubious timing. Its acting, for one, is damn near inexcusable. Sure, director Miguel Sapochnik has little experience working in film, let alone with "name" actors, but usually when this is the case, said talents just go into auto-drive, and steer themselves, making the rookie look like he knows what he's doing. This doesn't happen here, as Law is completely impossible to empathize with, Whitaker is beyond awful (think about post-'Jerry Maguire' Cuba Gooding, Jr. levels of effort, only lower), and Alice Braga, playing a repo man's dream job, due to her array of past due commissions residing in her flesh, hardly is given enough to work with, as a one dimensional character whose desires and personality change at/for the convenience of the script, but she doesn't make the un-winnable scenario any less painful. Even Schreiber, an underrated talent, is at less than "the top of his game."
The themes of redemption and re-entering humanity are all well and good, but in the midst of a story where said character just changes which side he kills for? Isn't that negating the entire point? In fact, the changes in Remy's demeanor once he's forced into having an implant heart hardly make a lick of sense, as this is a man who gleefully carved up victims, laughing about it, without a care in the world for those he leaves to die. Character change is best shown in progression, not just for no reason other than a life changing event. Wow, suddenly you're on the other side of the coin. How ironic...gee, haven't ever seen that before. The hunter becoming the hunted. Yawn.
For all its faults (the list goes on, and would make me seem like a scorned lover if I were to go on further), I have to give 'Repo Men' some credit. It isn't exactly an awful film. It actually could have been something if left in more competent hands, with a better eye for casting and a few changes of scenery. The violence found within this film is above and beyond that found in your average "unrated" horror film these days, and at times, it can be pretty damn awesome. In fact, the scene with the hacksaw may very well be the coolest use of an ordinary work tool since the lawnmower in 'Dead Alive,' or the hammer in 'Oldboy.' While the similarities to said films end there, 'Repo Men' is loaded to the brim with action and suspense, sometimes to the detriment of the story and pacing, so it's sure to at least entertain at times, even if it doesn't stimulate like it should. The ending is an unoriginal cop out if ever there was one, but all things considered, it could have been worse.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Repo Men' is housed on a BD50 Dual Layer disc that is Region Free, housed in a standard (non-eco) keepcase. There were no forced trailers before the menu screen, though there is a user-prompt-required screen pre-menu, asking the user if they want to view the film in the theatrical (112 min) or uncut (120 min) version. It's entirely possible that some users may have their player load a trailer via BD-Live, as there were many load screens that brought about nothing. Hell, there might even be a trailer for 'Fast & Furious 10,' which is teased on billboards within the film.
While I may have my concerns about the originality of the material, I have no concerns about the quality of the transfer provided 'Repo Men,' as Universal gives the film a flashy AVC MPEG-4 (1080p, 2.35:1) encode.
Detail, detail, detail. There's a whole bunch of it...until there isn't. I absolutely love the attention given to flesh, with little bumps from hair follicles and other minute details being readily visible. But I do not love, one bit, the random blurry or soft shots mixed in, seemingly just to piss one off. Three dimensionality is no problem, as the film often leaps right off the screen, but backgrounds can seem lost at times. Edges are great, for the most part, but there are some moments with noticeable ringing that were a tad distracting. Skin tones, well, this isn't a section I'm going to give a compliment as they're tweaked more often than they're not. There's some aliasing to be found here and there, black levels that can seem too bright at times, a bit unnatural, and even a bit of moire to be found in a shirt being lifted in a scene near the finale. High on detail and clarity, but suffering from random hiccups, this transfer will please fans, as well as most viewers in general.
'Repo Men' arrives on Blu-ray with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix (with a few DTS dub tracks, and a descriptive audio track) that stands up well against other actioners, but falls short of the activity and perfection needed to be a true demo disc.
From the very opening scenes, 'Repo Men' is loud. Active, too. Bass is used with little reserve, while atmosphere and random discrete effects find their way into each and every speaker. Dialogue comes through with brute force, at times, wanting to make sure everyone in the room can hear what's being (literally) barked. High ends are enjoyable, though, seemingly by design, can come across a bit screechy. Movement isn't used sparingly, as gunfire, as well as vehicles, find their way through channels without a hitch. Directionality is spot on, and the film can truly sound immersive. That's all well and good, but when the slight rustling of clothing or a bedsheet can be so loud as to rival dialogue, something is a bit out of whack. Though only sporting only one true room-rattler, 'Repo Men' is a loud, loud film, and it comes off quite nice, actually. It would just be nice if there weren't moment when it felt like a hobo screaming in your face.
Watching someone get paid to cut out body parts is so much more fun when there's singing involved. There, I said it. 'Repo Men,' try as it may, just cannot shake the stigma that it's not all that original. It's a piecemeal film, made from the best parts of other films, jumbled together in a way that makes it all nonsense. Bloody, violent nonsense. Universal's Blu-ray release has very good video, great audio, and an acceptable pile of extras. It's worth a look, based on disc quality alone, but damn if it couldn't have been a better film, with a sharper, more experienced eye at the helm, and perhaps a few actors who actually cared about more than their paychecks.