The only thing bleaker than the future shown in “Repo Men” is the sense that a potentially interesting premise got hijacked by a lackluster screenplay, shrug-inspiring acting performances, and nonsensical uses of gore and bloodshed.
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik, “Repo Men” portrays a near future where Remy (Jude Law) and his partner, Jake (Forest Whitaker), works as a repo men for a pharmaceuticals company known as The Union. This corporation creates artificial organs for transplants, but profits rule over patient welfare as they charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for their products. When a customers falls behind on their payments, The Union sends in the repo men to take back their property. Imagine Monty Python’s “Organ Donor” skit but minus the funny and an extra order of icky.
While the movie’s central conceit is implausible and entirely unrealistic, it is fertile ground for what could have been a dark, disturbing satire on the worst aspects of everything from the healthcare industry to real estate mortgage schemes. Had “Repo Men” gone in this direction, then it could have been an interesting and satisfying film.
But it didn’t.
Rather, “Repo Men” bounces aimlessly within action/adventure/noir territory already covered by movies like “Minority Report” and “Blade Runner” without providing anything really new. There are short bits where you get the impression that Sapochnik wanted to create a more over-the-top satire, but one suspects that a combination of his being a first-time director and a few too many notes from the movie’s producers pulled “Repo Men” back into safe, bland territory. The first half of the film plods along as we watch Remy mope over his career and family life, and then the second half suddenly turns into a dystopian James Bond film complete with car chases, unlikely hand-to-hand combat, witty repartee, ticking clocks, and a love interest (Alice Braga).
“Repo Men” is not entirely without bright spots. It shows that Sapochnik’s primary vocation before directing was storyboard artist. The movie’s framing and camerawork is great. Also, there are several enjoyable scenes including one featuring hip hop MC, RZA. Finally, one has to admire the fact that Sapochnik got away with a very not-Hollywood ending (and that’s all I’ll say).
And for those with keen powers of observation, did you notice the bleakest aspect of “Repo Men’s” dystopian vision?: billboards advertising the release of “The Fast and the Furious 10.”