Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik
Starring: Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Alice Braga, Liev Schreiber
Rated: R for for strong bloody violence, grisly images, language and some sexuality/nudity.
“Repo Men” has something for everyone. It’s got plenty of action, some interesting character development, a touch of romance, dark humor, and a commentary on modern life. The only downside is that while action folks probably won’t mind the other aspects, folks who aren’t into action may find the gore a bit much.
It’s just a few years into the future — enough that technology has advanced, but not so much that people aren’t still driving SUVs and using cellphones. Remy (Jude Law) and his friend Jake (Forest Whitaker) are repo men for The Union, a company which makes artificial organs. Need a new liver? Not a problem. Sure, it’s expensive, but their credit department will find a payment plan that fits your lifestyle. You owe it to your family, they’ll tell you. You owe it to yourself.
But if you fall too far behind on payments, guys like Remy and Jake will find you, knock you out, and take the organ back. Legally they have to offer you an ambulance, but they often neglect to do that until after you’re unconscious. And, well, even if they did, who’d finance a new organ for someone with a bad credit history?
Law and Whitaker have an easy chemistry that fits their characters perfectly. Law manages to make a fellow who kills for a living sympathetic, in part by showing that he’s not a ruthless killing machine. He’s more like a blue collar sort of worker. He goes to work, grabs some coffee, gets his slips, collects the organs he’s been assigned, and goes home to his wife and son. Whitaker nails Jake, who’s less sympathetic. Jake’s the kind of guy who does a repo job in a taxi in the middle of a suburban neighborhood where kids can see it and shoot video on their cellphones. He loves his job, loves his best friend, and thinks life is just peachy. Sure, people die, but a job’s a job.
Remy and Jake are very, very good at what they do, but Remy’s wife is sick of the late nights and the danger, and wants him to go into sales. He talks to his manager, the disturbing and slimy Frank (Liev Schreiber), but a permanent switch becomes impossible when Remy’s heart quits on him. He gets a new one, but it’s expensive, and sales doesn’t pay as well as repo. Unfortunately, it turns out a job’s not just a job: having an artificial organ of his own makes him sympathize with his targets, and he finds himself unable to actually work. Which — you guessed it — means he can’t keep up with his payments, and soon finds himself on the other side of the repossession mambo.
He winds up joining forces with Beth (Alice Braga), a fellow past-due client, and the two of them try to hide from the repo men. When that proves impossible, they set out to get themselves out of the credit record system. Beth is a surprisingly fantastic action heroine. She’s street-smart and a capable fighter, but also a good sidekick. She knows how to cover a door and hand weapons along to a better-trained fighter. It’s refreshing to see a petite woman in an action movie who’s neither an impossibly skilled ninja nor a complete weakling.
The action is exciting and shot in wide enough frames that you can see what’s going on and appreciate the fighters’ skills. Whitaker is a student of Filipino martial arts, and his abilities are impressive. The rest of the cinematography is top-notch as well, and there are some interesting sequences that seem ripe for film students to write papers about. The cleverness doesn’t distract, however — there’s just enough for film geeks to be entertained by without it detracting from the rest of the film.
Overall, whether you can enjoy “Repo Men” hinges largely on your tolerance for gore. There are close-ups of Remy at work, slicing people open and rooting around for their organs. Blood spatters on walls during fights. If that’s not your cup of tea, and you don’t like films with seriously dark themes, stay away. If you can handle that, however, “Repo Men” is well worth seeing.