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Repo Men

"Repo Men"; a film review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

Movies are usually rated with stars or popcorn boxes or numbers from one to ten (ten being best). So let's begin by rating "Repo Men." However, to make things perfectly clear, I submit not one rating but three.

First, on a scale from one to ten for violence, grisliness, and blood letting, "Repo Men" is a ten. For being really funny at times, it's also a ten. For having an important message that projects a possible future as suggested by today's political battles, "Repo Men" is a twelve.

"Repo Men" has a tone and feel much like "Blade Runner," and even the more contemporary, yet darker dystopian film, "Children of Men."

Jude Law

Jude Law

Jude Law ("Sherlock Holmes") is Remy. He's a repossession agent for The Union. (BTW, the name chosen for this futuristic healthcare corporation tends to mask the film's message.) Remy's partner and lifelong friend is Jake who is well-played, of course, by Forest Whitaker. Sorry, I forgot to mention that "Repo Men" is also a buddy picture.

The Union is a mega-business that designs and constructs ridiculously over priced organs to replace the real ones that all wear out, eventually. Anyone in this near future setting can purchase an organ replacement, called an artiforg (pronounced AHR-tuh forg). Sales are stimulated by the firm's well-advertised slogan/query, "What's new in you?"

Artiforgs are marketed much like automobiles. A consumer may buy one on credit (with exorbitant interest rates) but should the purchaser default on the payments that's when the desensitized duo, Remy and Jake, comes in. After a contracted time, these former combat soldiers repossess the organ or organs from the client just like a home or auto.

The repo guys have little scanner-like thingamajigs that can tell them if a person is using one of The Union's artiforgs and if he or she has kept up the payments. (Ah yes, bar codes.) Sometimes the thingamajigs alert Remy and Jake to reclaim the product. Or they're told to do so by their boss, Frank, played so well by Liev Schreiber ("Love in the Time of Cholera," "The Painted Veil," and "Taking Woodstock"). Frank is a Union sales manager and sells artiforgs to customers much like cars or medical insurance. He knows how to close.

After tasering or shooting a tranquilizer dart into the client, Remy and Jake usually retrieve the artiforg using a scalpel and then quickly replace the product in an air tight plastic bag, returning it to The Union for proper storage and resale. Repossession men are paid, mostly, on commission.

Guess who has a cardiac event one night on a repossession run causing The Union to subsequently replace his heart with their latest model artificial cardiac system? Of course, Remy must pay full price for the artiforg and, of course, guess who, eventually, can't make the payments on his fancy new, extremely costly heart?

But this comes after Remy's wife, Carol, played by Dutch actor Carice van Houton ("Black Book"), has had enough of his slaughtering The Union's deadbeat clients. She kicks him out because he won't attempt to move into sales at The Union and is concerned how his repo man job will affect their young son, Peter, played by Houston native, Christopher Canterbury. Carol is disappointed that Remy can't make the decision to get out of the artiforg repossession department.

After the cardiac replacement, Remy has a change of heart, so to speak. He can't make himself retrieve the product from a client.

Alice Braga

Alice Braga

This is about the time he comes in contact with Beth. The Brazilian actor, Alice Braga, has that role and is quite effective with the character even though she's given only a moderate amount of time on screen.

Beth is a multi-tasker, so to speak, insofar as having artiforgs for some of her anatomy. She's on the lam from The Union in order to stay alive. Guess who helps her with that task?

In the most compelling scene of the film, which comes near the end, Law and Braga mix pain, blood and gore with implied eroticism as each, in turn, invades the other's body to effect necessary alterations connected to the artiforgs both carry within. No sex. No nudity. But the facial expressions the two display in certain frames suggest that all is not just blinding pain they are feeling. The scene really doesn't imply sadomasochism as there is a strange tenderness about what they do for each other. Using only words to describe these truly unique and curious moments doesn't suffice. But your eyes will tell you everything.

Meanwhile, Jake is most discomforted by Remy not being on his game. He's so forthright about his unhappiness for how Remy is indisposed to doing his job one would think Jake might not like it that Remy has kindled a flame with Beth. But that isn't anything that comes to resolution or revelation. That I can say. How this sci-fi spine-tingler concludes(?)---well, you couldn't get that out of me if you came after me with a scalpel. There is another question, though: guess who comes after Remy to repossess the heart?

Director Miguel Sapochnik has nearly outdone himself with his first feature. Great expectations await him on future work, which remind me of what "Pulp Fiction" did for, or maybe to, Quentin Tarantino.

"Repo Men's" screenplay was written by Eric Garcia and Garnett Lerner. It's a good one, faltering not whatsoever, and comes from Garcia's novel, "The Repossession Mambo." With this clever script and Jude Law going shirtless in several scenes, there may be some serious ticket-selling going on. And although I'm not a big fan of current vampire movies, except for "Let The Right One In," young folk into these latter day Bela Lugosi pictures, now such the rage, may find "Repo Men" gives them a blood rush due to the blood that spatters so generously in the film's more combative moments of which there are many.

Liev Schreiber

Liev Schreiber

The Union, as it does business, seems immune to any regulations regarding the action it takes against nonpaying customers. (Certain kinds of laws in this futuristic, frighteningly third-world North American metropolis would appear, for some people, to be a tad lax.) Although, when Remy is about to extract a deadbeat's organ, he does ask the victim if he or she would like an ambulance to be dispatched for quick conveyance to a hospital.

The Union feels the client should be given a choice, even though his or her life won't be saved if transportation is provided for what's left of the person's body. Maybe you can now imagine how "Repo Men" is a real hoot in many scenes. Sapochnik milks it for just the right amount of humor.

Whoops, I neglected to offer a fourth rating for another aspect of "Repo Men." The cynicism rating for this unusual and quite entertaining film, on a scale from one to ten, is fifteen. Although I don't want to bring you down saying this, there's not much in the script that doesn't seem it couldn't be a real possibility for our children's children's futures, if all becomes privatized.

Repo Man

Please be aware, as you watch "Repo," the only time healthcare facilities or healthcare providers are shown is during Remy's surgery and hospitalization for his new Union heart. All other medical procedures, (positive and negative) depicted are performed by nonprofessionals, which may be the concept most difficult to swallow watching "Repo Men."

Finally, there is one thing that would've made "Repo Men" better for me: Harry Dean Stanton (on right in "Repo Man" poster) needed to be somewhere in the cast just being his marvelously weird self.

"Repo Men" official site.

Opens wide Friday, 3/19.

Check Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2010, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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