In a futuristic world, an organization called The Union has created highly developed and highly priced mechanical organs. These organs can be purchased by anyone for any reason — if, however, they’re unable to pay the incredibly steep full price (usually somewhere in the hundreds of thousands of dollars), they’ve got two choices: Make monthly payments or run. That’s right, the catch is that after 96 days of The Union not receiving payment, they send repo men to retrieve whatever organ(s) they’ve provided, without any concern of the recipient surviving the retrieval procedure. This is where Remy (Jude Law) and Jake (Forest Whitaker) come in; they’re partners and best friends who happen to be the best repo men in the business. Jake is a bit more careless than Remy, so Remy is basically looked at as the best man for the job. That is until a faulty defibrillator sends Jake into cardiac arrest and he wakes up with the latest heart replacement in his chest. Now with a debt he can’t repay on his hands, Remy struggles to find a way to take himself out of the system while evading his best friend who has been contracted to hunt him down.
Repo Men is based on the novel The Repossession Mambo written by screenwriter Eric Garcia in 2003 and published in 2009. It seemingly takes the only thing I liked about Repo! The Genetic Opera (the concept of someone’s organs being repossessed) and uses it to create a full-length film. Repo! The Genetic Opera was pretty terrible overall having less than a few moments of brilliance and I was sure Repo Men would capitalize on all its failings. After seeing this film, however, it remains that the concept I really like has yet to be properly executed.
Jude Law and Forest Whitaker are easily the best part of the film. I’ve heard some people say that Law doesn’t fit this role, and they’re right, it’s actually the other way around — Law makes this role fit him. This is his story and he makes it worth sitting through. Whitaker shines during the scenes where he struggles with doing his job and helping his best friend. I’m not familiar with a lot of Whitaker’s work, but he’s one of those actors where his eyes tell the story better than his body language does.
The over the top gore of Repo Men seems to be a big issue for a lot of people. As a horror aficionado, it didn’t bother me much. In fact, it made me feel right at home. The bloody scenes are the most memorable scenes in the film and the hallway scene in front of the pink door is easily my favorite. It may be because it reminds me of the far superior, yet similar, hallway sequence in Oldboy. And despite the theater not being very full, the film received a pretty big reaction during it. So even if blood and guts is not really your thing, if you see this film, they’ll probably be what you remember most when you’re walking out of the theater.
The film has a pretty fantastic ending too. In fact, it felt like the action thriller had a fairly strong beginning and ending with a rather mediocre middle. There were certain things about the story that bothered me, one being after Remy gets his heart transplant, he can’t find it within himself to be a repo man anymore. Even though it’s “just another job,” all he can think about is the fact the person he’s cutting open has a family. It leads one to believe that he can’t kill anymore, yet later on, it shows him killing other repo men that work for The Union. Do they not have families, too? Could he kill these men because he knows the ins and outs of the job they perform every day? There were several other similar inconsistencies throughout the film that stuck out like that (anyone else notice “Repossession Mambo” was misspelled in Remy’s first draft of his novel?).
With a brilliant organ repossessing idea and two strong male leads, Repo Men had the potential to be a sleeper hit of 2010. Other than the excessive gore (which I loved) and the questionable parts of the storyline, it’s hard for me to pinpoint what exactly about the film didn’t sit well with me. It reminded me a bit of films like The Transporter and Underworld — not so much in content, but in the sense that they were films that contained elements of things that I love but just didn’t wholly deliver the goods. I don’t really think Repo Men is an awful film or nearly as bad as the ratings it’s gotten from top critics purport it to be. It’s still worth seeing; just know that it just doesn’t quite live up to expectations.