Repo Men (**1/2)

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Repo Men.  111 mins.  R.  Directed by Miguel Sapochnik.  Written by Eric Garcia & Garrett Lerner.  Starring Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Alice Braga, and Liev Schreiber.

 

Repo Men is a junky, uber-violent B-movie dressed up with A-list stars that mostly just calls to mind other, better movies as you're watching it.  I was immediately reminded of the 2008 horror rock opera, Repo! The Genetic Opera, which already mined this same thematic territory to more original, yet equally insipid effect.  Director Miguel Sapochnik channels his inner DePalma and also cribs key elements/scenes from Blade Runner, Minority Report, Cronenberg's Crash, and Oldboy.  All of it feels a bit dated and unpleasant, but the movie remains watchable throughout.

Law plays Remy, an agent of "The Union", a giant corporation that sells mechanical body parts to sickly people who need them, at unbelievably high prices.  The catch?  If you can't pay your bills, the "repo men" will come and claim the body part, which usually ends up with the person dead.  When Remy contemplates leaving The Union, after much needling from his wicked witch of a wife, he's betrayed and set up with a mechanical heart which he can't pay off.  The tables are turned, and Remy is on the run, with his longtime partner, Jake (Forest Whitaker, much better here than in the ghastly Our Family Wedding), hot on his trail.  All of this takes place in the future, so you've got high tech weaponry, a foreboding cityscape with giant TVs on the sides of buildings (a la Blade Runner), and an ironic sense of humor that seems to say, see corporate America?  See what we're becoming?

The script is fairly scattershot, taking big leaps in time that move the story along, but render the pacing awkward and jumpy.  Remy is joined on his fugitive escape, by a fellow debtor (and druggie) played by Alice Braga.  Her 2-day detox scene and unfortunate love story with Remy almost derail the movie, but a quick break-in to Union corporate headquarters and a nifty car chase later help keep things on track.  Those kinds of action set pieces are evenly distributed throughout the movie, and they kept me amused and distracted from the idiocy of the script.

Also, I'm not faint of heart, and I can handle a lot of blood on screen, but the gore here seems almost exploitative and in bad taste.  One scene in particular had the audience groaning - it's the one where Law and Braga have to rip open each other's bodies and scan the mechanical parts inside so the computer reads them as "reclaimed."  Bloody sure, and that would be fine, but for some reason, Sapochnik stages it as a love scene, with the two characters apparently getting off on reaching into each other's body cavities.  That's just gross, and again, reminded me of another movie: David Cronenberg's Crash (about people getting turned on by car crashes), which I detest and try to avoid thinking about whenever I can.

I won't ruin the twist at the end, but it's pretty lame, and renders half of the movie obsolete - as if it were all a dream sequence.  Maybe that excuses the blatant rip-off of the fight scene in Oldboy toward the end, but probably not.  Someone suggested that this movie is an attempt to recapture some of the Paul Verhoeven magic (Basic Instinct, RoboCop, Starship Troopers).  I can see the comparison - it's certainly that kind of movie, but quality-wise, it's more Hollow Man than RoboCopRepo Men is hard to look away from, but you might just wish you had.

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