Review by Jack Foley
HARSHLY criticised in some quarters, Miguel Sapochnik’s violent futuristic thriller Repo Men is actually a guilty pleasure style experience that neatly combines controversial ethical subjects with extreme action and hard-hitting violence.
True, the glib tone can sit a little uncomfortably alongside some of this excess, while Jude Law’s central character has to work hard to warrant any real sympathy.
But like Gattaca and Blade Runner before it, Repo Men presents a credible “what if” scenario and has fun playing around with it within the conventions of a gloriously OTT B-movie kind of style.
The story takes place in a near-future where people can buy replacement body parts and organs to prolong their existence and cheat the Reaper. If they fall behind on their payments, however, they can expect to have these parts repossessed by a debt recovery firm that can strike at any moment.
Law plays one such repo man, who gleefully carries out his trade with the help of his best friend and former army colleague (Forest Whitaker). But when an on-the-job accident leaves Law’s anti-hero with a new heart of his own and struggling to keep up payments, he’s forced to go on the run with his best friend in hot pursuit.
Sapochnik’s film is essentially a chase movie that pays only lip service to some of the more serious themes underpinning it: such as the nature of big business exploiting healthcare for profit, and society’s nonchalant attitude towards violence.
By doing so, it also turns Law’s character into a more cartoonish leading man rather than a flesh and blood human who is easy to identify with. His transformation from vicious repo man to potential victim does require a leap of faith, but it’s one that’s well worth making.
Hence, once forced to flee for his own life and – eventually – fight back against the corporation hunting him, the stage is set for a number of increasingly violent exchanges that switch from the ‘thinking man’s science’ of Gattaca to the more outlandish extremes of The Matrix and co.
This is no bad thing, however… just one that’s catering more for the Friday night popcorn crowd rather than the endurability of the best near-future visions.
That said, Sapochnik also equips the movie with a clever twist ending that few will see coming; and which makes the prospect of a repeat viewing something quite enticing.
Of the performances, Law makes a credible action hero and nicely juxtaposes his brash, smug repo man with a frightened, confused man on the run, while Whitaker is a suitably charismatic and ruthless friend and eventual nemesis. Liev Schreiber adds some heavyweight support as a company boss.
The look of the film is also impressive, while the brutal violence (which needs to shock, in my opinion) is sometimes quite jaw-dropping but in keeping with the tone the film needs to set. Admittedly, some of the latter sequences are a little OTT, but then a knife fight set to an UNKLE soundtrack does provide a thrilling headrush moment.
Repo Men won’t be to every sci-fi taste and certainly isn’t for the squeamish, but it’s smart, fun and much, much better than some of the scathing reviews would have you believe. It’s well worth giving a go!
Running time: 111mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: August 23, 2010
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Jude Law and Forest Whitaker interview
- Repo Men Photo Gallery
- View the Repo Men Promo Poster Gallery