The Body Politic
Repo Men is the stuff plagiarism suits are made of. This science fiction satire with a corporeal bent really resembles the cult hit Repo! The Genetic Opera -- to the extent that coincidence is a load of barnacles. Still, I won't go into what came first or who should start beefing up their legal teams. Each is its own film, with its own agenda, and it happens that Repo Men fits itself for the mainstream multiplex. However, although this feature is the first of its kind most people will see, it's not the best one they'll get. It's a spirited thriller nonetheless, but lacking in enough craziness to really blow the curious away.
When some dirtbag jumps bail, they call Dog the Bounty Hunter. When items of otherwordly origin pop up in a Chevy Malibu, they call Emilio Estevez. But in a future where artificial organs can be purchased on installment plans, a missed payment too many means a visit from Remy (Jude Law). Our boy is a loyal employee of the Union, a company that supplies those in need with the gift of life and dispatches those like Remy if the price isn't paid. It's a trade that's paid off handsomely for Remy, until a freak accident leaves him with a Union ticker in his chest and a mountain of debt to pay. With time running out before his fellow repo agents come to collect, Remy makes like Logan and runs for his life, teaming with a spry companion (Alice Braga) to break the Union's strangehold on the business of life for good.
Although Repo Men is derivative of its more theatrical contemporary, that doesn't stop its story from receiving a nice topical push. Its release during such a make-or-break moment in national health care has to be the result of either happenstance or an unusually clever burst of foresight. It comes across as science fiction for the working man, taking a subject like the nation's well-being (which is rarely irrelevant) and partaking in a few riffs at its expense. Repo Men appears most on its game when it explores how society has adapted to the changes the plot presents. It's hard not to chuckle when Remy harasses a customer whose pancreas is past due or apathetically recites policy to folks whose livers he's come to haul to home office. I'm glad to see director Miguel Sapochnik as concerned with selling his universe to the masses as he is with sating studio bean counters with pyrotechnics.
But as clever as Repo Men can be, it's not often clever enough. You remember seeing a poster with Jude Law clutching a blood-spattered cup of joe? Repo Men is only that movie some of the time. On the whole, it's action of the most generic order, subsisting on the same thrills and tough guyisms that were tired when Flash Gordon was in silver diapers. What bites is you know the film can do better, and as Repo Men clocks in around two hours, it's hard not to tire of its promise jerking your chain. The actors even seem to exude regret whenever another pointless chase scene calls them away from the really juicy material. Law busts a few heads, Forest Whitaker follows suit, and Braga tends to yawn her way through eye-candy duty. Only Liev Schreiber takes the time to live it up, underplaying the role of a droll Union supervisor to hilarious effect.
Stacked up against the most far-fetched adventures sci-fi has to offer, Repo Men seems like a comparably reasonable view of things to come. It flirts with plausibility enough not to sacrifice the story's few novel aspects. I'm disappointed that more time wasn't spent being on the ball, but if you're up for a body-part buffet seasoned with satire, Repo Men will definitely wrangle your interest.
MY RATING: ** 1/2 (out of ****)
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated "R" for strong bloody violence, grisly images, language and some sexuality/nudity.)