Monday, March 22, 2010

Movie Review: Repo Men

Seriously, this is a weird movie. It would be so easy to dismiss it as garbage, but it just isn't. It isn't a bad movie. It's like a Frankenstein's monster made up of about 7 good movies that somehow don't work together. Here's the best analogy I've got: Brad Pitt's got good features, right? But if you tore off his face and wrapped it around another dude's slightly differently shaped dome, it wouldn't work. Basically, the parts of this movie are all good, spectacular at times really...but they add up to something that's just flippin' weird. Anyway, here's my review.

Dude, Where’s My Segue?
Repo Men is worse than the sum of its parts

In the mood for a Matrix-style, sci-fi action orgy inspired by the Korean cult classic Old Boy? Do you have a hankering for a David Cronenberg–esque marrying of bodily mutilation and simulated sexual intercourse? Are you yearning for a throwback buddy cop movie? A tragic love story? Howsabout some philosophical speculative fiction pontificating on contemporary issues like debt, health care, runaway corporate greed and the violence of everyday life extrapolated to the Nth degree? You can see it all for the cost of one ticket and most of your sanity.

Director Miguel Sapochnik’s Repo Men is a mediocre movie made up of about five great ones. On their own, each 20-minute segment is remarkable and never dull; however, when combined, it’s practically gibberish. It’s as if writers Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner sat in a room going “you know what else would be cool?” It’s like reverse pointillism, where each of the dots is beautiful but the painting gets uglier the further back you step.

The set-up is simple: Some time in the unspecified future, corporations have perfected artificial organs to the point where they save countless lives. The catch is that they’re stupid expensive, with a robo-heart costing nearly a million bucks. When customers fall behind on payments, Remy (Jude Law) and his war buddy–turned–repo partner Jake (Forest Whitaker) show up, knock ‘em out, cut ‘em open and reclaim the organs.

The men engage in this grotesque and graphic occupation on the grounds that “a job is a job,” a phrase repeated until the audience is sufficiently bludgeoned with the “all actions have consequences” message. Remy realizes these consequences when an accident forces him to become a recipient of a fake heart and leaves him deeply in debt to his former employers, fronted by his boss Frank (Live Schreiber). Afflicted with a crisis of conscience, Remy hops ship, hooks up with a cracked-out lounge singer (Alice Braga) and attempts to right his wrongs with copious blood letting.

Every time the film seems ready to settle in to a pattern, it gets ADD. Law and Whitaker, who both turn in surprisingly strong performances given the madcap material, must have gotten thematic whiplash. Law in particular goes from family man struggling with the morality of his occupation (think unscrupulous insurance agent…only he actually kills people) to star-crossed tragic lover of a woman who had logged all of two minutes of screen time. The only consistency is visual, as Sapochnik made one hell of a directorial portfolio, proving he can shoot still, quiet moments as effectively as he can lens graphic sex or violence.

Undone by a clunky script, the “twist” ending finally proves too much, and Repo Men gives up the ghost in the machine, figuratively and literally. Had Garcia (a first-time film writer) and Lerner (who has only penned TV shows) been aided by a seasoned cinematic screenwriter, we may have been talking about a burgeoning cult classic. Instead, we’re left scratching our entertained but confused noggins and asking “what the hell was that?”

Grade = C+

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