Monday, August 8, 2011

Repo Men (2010)

Overdue organs

We currently live in a consumerist world where almost everything is on a payment plan--car, house, flat screen TV--that comes with exorbitant interest rates and endless monthly bills in the mail. This film gives that sentiment a gut-wrenching yet darkly humorous and sometimes flashy twist as it shows a company in the slightly distant future that has a right to legally take back their manufactured organs from living, breathing people who can no longer make payments. A person is tracked down by commissioned bounty hunters called "Repo Men" who knock someone unconscious and then literally extract the merchandise right then and there in a hasty, gruesome fashion. No time for ambulances and hospitals, because guess what? You ain't gonna to make it.

A suburban man named Remy (Jude Law) works in this corporate, uncaring business where humans are moved along and disposed of like cattle. Where there's money, there's always someone to do the dirty work to their own kind and over the years he's seen all the reactions and pleads that you can name just before they bleed to death. Except it pays the bills and supports his wife and kid, giving him more power to his do-what-I-have-to, do-what-I-can philosophy because at this point he's got all the reason and nothing can touch him. Though his wife wants him to move over to sales with less pay but more stable hours despite racking up the bounties by the boatload. His partner Jake (Forest Whitaker) is the true sadist of the two and the only person that he respects is his childhood buddy Remy, despite having two wildly different looks and accents. He's always been there with him and sees him stepping away from what they built up together as a slight in their close knit friendship.

This switches between several tones as it progresses, going from a movie with some wit about the unstoppable power hungry, then turning the tables and gaining some perspective from an accident and Remy getting a manufactured organ of his own, to some romance with a former singer that played at a bar he frequented, and then a fugitive on the run flick as he by chance catches back up with her and has to erase both their names from the system. It manages to grow and expand, all the while maintaining a purposeful exaggeration and a certain pessimistic playfulness and sarcasm. This is a futuristic world where there are new gadgets and gizmos as well as space is small and advertisements are everywhere in the inner cities like "Blade Runner." Though Remy has to go through some gritty locales that are unkept like a World War III backdrop to avoid scanners picking up his and her organs being tagged as behind in payments.

Forest Whitaker plays a frightening role by managing to keep you guessing if he's completely bonkers or has some reasoning somewhere under that bulky front. He holds their motto "a job's a job" to heart and the only thing that cools his heals is money: to making it or getting in the way of it. Jude Law keeps the various tones together, going from tough and untouchable to contemplative and caring. Alice Braga as Beth keeps it simultaneously strong and sexy as she kicks a drug habit, gets a few nasty injuries and manages to get intimate despite the often dirty settings. Some of the fight scenes are somewhat surprising for a Hollywood film, as there are still frequent edits in between takes, though the camera usually captures the actor doing their own stunts in plain view instead of showing a fist flying this way or a blank back of the head shot that. Not only that, when a guy gets shot or stabbed, he takes one for the bloody team in full view.

"Repo Men" is a modern day satire at its cruelest down to its twisted ending with a twist. There are some plot holes glazed over for poetic license though the movie moves at a steady enough pacing and gets its main areas right. Like "The Road" it has a message about what we can become and are capable of as humans when we travel down a dark pathway, though delivered in a lighter, jeering manner. This is a future where there's no human rights activists, just a cold and calculated empire that gets people hooked and then drains them. With diminishing health, drug dependency and addictions (here Q habit) our bodies are pushed to the limits of what they can endure, and it was only inevitable that a company would step in to capitalize and make a commodity out of it.

This is an entertaining social commentary that manages to treat serious subjects like popcorn cinema with some black humor and homage to other films. It gives mention to our constant demand for possessions, health care, our obsession with bigger and better, and other contemporary disorders such as surgical and cosmetic addiction. In one way it is reminiscent of "Gattaca" in which we want to upgrade ourselves to perfection, not realizing those certain kinks make us unique even if they aren't what the supermarket magazines tell us who we should be. What made this film work was it was capable of balancing an excessive side and then include a certain bit of measurement to make it seem slightly possible enough to raise some questions for productive debate.

Rating: 8/10

Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Stars: Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liev Shreiber, Alice Braga
Link: IMDB

Facts from the Black and Red:

- A human can live without their tonsils, appendix, spleen and gallbladder.

- A chicken in 1945 had most of its head cut off and lived for 18 months due to a fluke resulting in the axe missing the carotid artery, a blood clot forming and the brain stem still being intact, which controls vital organ functions such as respiration, blood pressure and heart rate. Incidentally, "Mike the Headless Chicken" died two years later from a minor choking accident.

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