A repo man’s life is always intense. Repo Men’s life is almost always interminable.
Miguel Sapochnik’s dystopian sci-fi about futuristic internal-organ repossession starts off as a modestly entertaining B-grade, blood-drenched Brazil. Once Repo Men sends leading man Jude Law on the run, it flails for 90 minutes in life-draining panic like someone who awakes down one kidney in an ice-filled Tijuana bathtub.
Remy (Law) and Jake (Forest Whitaker) are repo men for the Union, which peddles robotic replacements for internal organs at six-figure prices with 20-percent APRs. Hey, at least 90 days same as cash made it into the future. Those unable to make the note have their organs removed and returned. Predatory lending, indeed.
Why all the bum organs? Is the government regulating the Union? Is the Union the government? Ask someone besides Sapochnik or writers Garrett Lerner or Eric Garcia, who are too preoccupied with feeding visual interest payments 28 years later to Blade Runner’s dingy-dirigible future.
To Jake’s dismay, Remy is ready to give up repo for sales, seeking safer work to satisfy his wife (Black Book’s Carice van Houten, haughty and wasted). But Remy soon learns of the Union’s crummy workman’s comp plan: On what is to be his last repo job, a defibrillator backfires and he comes to with a pricy artificial heart.
Now plagued by a payment plan he can’t make, Remy flees fellow reapers, taking up with a torch singer (Alice Braga) to topple the Union (personified by Liev Schreiber, whose smug Noo Yawk tough talk is an asset Repo Men doesn’t deserve).
Repo Men lacks enough acidic-humor antidotes for the many poisons it picks — healthcare, the credit industry, personal debt, plastic-surgery addiction, improperly treated post-traumatic stress disorder.
Nor does it have the sense to stay short and sweet, ballooned by friendship flashbacks ostensibly meant to cater to respected actors who’ve signed on for trash.
Whitaker is better than in the leaden Street Kings, but even he must be depressed by turning into a store-brand Samuel L. Jackson. And just when Repo Men seems like slop-trash John Leguizamo would show up in, he pops up like a Whac-a-Mole for a scene where he and Law scream “parrot” and “vulture” at each other.
Given its struggle to settle on satirical tones and targets or present original visuals, Repo Men’s best asset is a mirthfully macabre, cannily employed soundtrack. Standards like “Sway” and “Feelin’ Good” accompany what Remy dubs the “repossession mambo” — the body’s twitches and jolts as it moves toward death. (Even that’s not perfect, though, as a quasi sex scene in the climax is accompanied by music that sounds like what you’d hear trying on slacks at Banana Republic.)
More unintentionally amusing, though, is the laughable notion of Law as some sort of O.G. thug brawler. Fitting him into Jason Statham’s tight, bulging-bicep shirts doesn’t distract from Law’s natural stateliness and Phil Collins hairline. Law can be malevolent, but he’s better at deep psychological betrayal, not deep-tissue bruising.
John Carpenter might have made Remy less of a mope and more of a maniac and certainly would have massaged the finale — a quarter-whammy that thinks it’s a triple-whammy. It’s hard to say Repo Men has a bum ticker: It’s got no ticker at all.
More is less for the Blu-ray release of Repo Men — from the additional nine minutes of footage to a snoozer feature commentary from Sapochnik, Garcia and Lerner.
At least the video and audio are top-flight, with a transfer able to keep the many nighttime scenes from descending into murk and a lossless DTS-HD track that’s active and aggressive before the opening credits roll, with several instances of room-rattling subwoofer eruptions and bullets whizzing across the soundfield.
Universal might as well have slapped “Breasts!” across the packaging, as that’s the only appreciable addition to the unrated cut (even if a scene with a stripper welcoming Remy back to work makes no sense in this reconstituted timeline).
The theatrical cut offers a picture-in-picture option, as well as an Artiforg Tech Specs option (named after the film’s term for robotic organs) that offers more detailed insight into each organ than you’d expect from such a bargain-basement film.
A visual-effects featurette (also with commentary) is modestly insightful for those curious about sci-fi on the cheap. And a series of Union-sponsored commercials play like the Uwe Boll versions of Paul Verhoeven’s TV-ad satire of Starship Troopers.
On top of that, there are more deleted or extended scenes, with optional commentary from Sapochnik, Garcia and Lerner. It’s an indication of their usefulness when the trio can’t even figure out which deleted scene is which and where it fits into the film. Moreover, it speaks to Repo Men’s overall quality when one writer quips, “This is how the sausage is made.”