A few years ago, I saw trailer for what looked like a fantastic sci-fi-action-thriller. It boasted a solid cast headed by Jude Law, Forest Whitaker and Liev Schreiber. The plot seemed engrossing and exciting. Set in a dystopian future after an unnamed war, a company called The Union has found a way to extend and improve people’s lives with artificial organs called “artiforgs.” The artiforgs are a true wonder of science and very expensive. If after a 90 day grace period you cannot make the payments, then the Union is forced to send in the repo men. Jude Law and Forest Whitaker will cut you open and remove the artiforg leaving you to die.
The existence of Repo Men, the movie I just described, was quickly forgotten until I came across it in a bargain bin this last week. $5 Bluray combo pack should have served as a warning, but I was actually excited. I made the purchase and ran home to finally see the movie that eluded me like a hack past due on his artificial pancreas. From the opening scene, I was disappointed. Jude law’s character Remy sits at a typewriter (in the future?) and recants the details of the ‘Schroedinger’s Cat’ experiment. I had to look it up, but the conclusions drawn by the character have little basis within the experiment or logic for that matter. “That if something isn’t definably dead or alive, then it must be both”; this only foreshadows the poor experience to follow.
The reference to an experiment few have heard of is only the first attempt to make this film seem intelligent–sadly it is anything but.
We get to watch our stars out making the rounds, cutting people open and retrieving the artiforgs of those who have fallen behind on their payments. We learn that Jude and Forest (James) were soldiers in some unnamed war that seems to have claimed some portion of their humanity, making them perfect for this type of work. The return their items to the smarmy Frank (Leiv Schriber) who, because of their success, offers them their own unit to search out large communities of past due individuals called hives. Remy, however, turns down the promotion at the behest of his wife. Remy goes on a late night repo by himself and is injured by a piece of equipment when he wakes in the hospital he has an artiforg heart and a payment due every 30 days. Despite his attempts, he can no longer carve people up and retrieve their artiforgs, which in turn means he cannot make money, which in turn means he cannot make his payments and ultimately must go on the run (like every Jude Law sci-fi picture). Then the huge shock… Wait for it… James is forced to track Remy down and retrieve the heart.
The plot from here becomes tragically predictable. A couple of crude attempts to make you believe you missed something, and that the film has some depth, fall flat. I began to wish someone had repossessed my eyes and given me a good excuse not to continue to the final frame.
The film starts with a decent concept and then derails itself in execution…or lack thereof. The failed attempt at social commentary is made almost laughable by a scene in which our main characters utilize a scanner and drive around shouting at people who are nearing repossession. The dehumanizing war is barely mentioned. An awkward sex/surgery scene borders on experimental cinema but seems to come out of nowhere and does nothing to advance the plot.
Bottom line- for all the things Repo Men tries to be, it misses by a mile. It comes off as Robocop with better acting but less plot. To quote Frank as he closes the deal in each artiforg sale, “You owe it to your family, and you owe it to yourself” not to watch this movie.