This may shock you, but sometimes (SOMETIMES,) Hollywood has bad ideas. Er, bad or just boring, already-been-done-ideas. And while the idea of a company repossessing organs of the semi-innocent may not be original in the history of the motion picture, this plot for the new release Repo Men makes for a a genuinely interesting idea. As a Sci-Fi story, it has the potential to ask hundreds of interesting ideas – it could make one question how one can own their own body, or explore the notion of our corporate world becoming a literal part of us.
Or it could just be an action movie that doesn’t realize how boring it is.
As Repo Men begins, it looks like it’s trying to go for something substantial. We meet Remy, played with an odd sense of humor by Jude Law. It works though, for a while, as the film takes a weird if not totally deviant glee in following Remy’s job. His employer, the Union, creates synthetic organs and can manage to sell them for hundreds of thousands of dollars, even to people without the means to pay for them. After the “generous” three-month grace period, customers who don’t pay on their installment plans are visited by “repo men” like Remy, and violently denied their Union body parts. If you’re like Remy, you take a certain pleasure in the job, listening to your iPod as you rip out a kidney, eventually the debtor to their own, post-op, selves.
For a while, it works on a minor level. You can tell that the guys behind the camera are going for something along the lines of a gory action piece with hints of black humor and, maybe somewhere down the line, some substantial social commentary. The comedy definitely has its moments, full of irony and indulgent violence. (A skull smashed by a typewriter? Okay, I admit I laughed.)
But after the film enters its second act, it’s like they stopped caring about their plot, about what they want to say. All the sudden, it just becomes an overlong countdown to the turning point, when Remy, unable to pay for his new heart, decides to get out his inner Rambo and take down the Union. As this goes on, Repo Men fails to establish any real traction or drama for the characters – Remy just keeps sitting around, not making money, and eventually his three months run up and he goes on the run.
At the end, when Remy tries to blow up the Union (that is not much of an exaggeration), the film enters a third mode, one in line with the aforementioned Rambo movies – well, the second and third one anyway. The gory yuks shift into high gear, where main characters get stabbed through the neck without a second’s notice and surgery turns sexual. You can’t help but giggle a little, even if only out of shock. It’s too little, too late; but the film is most sure of itself here It’s not trying to say anything, it’s just trying to be as entertaining as it can be with its outlandish set-up. But even here, the film lacks any real essence – it’s just a few guys trying to come up with some badass ways to hurt people, all that comes out are some lazy references to Oldboy.
When you sew it all together, Repo Men isn’t much more than a few failed attempts at different kinds of movies rolled into one. Genre fans might enjoy it, but there’s nothing going on here that hasn’t been done before.