Movie Review: Repo Men- A Borrowed, Unoriginal, and Unskillful Homage to Science Fiction

It seems as though science fiction has been the genre of choice the past couple of years with relatively successful results considering that both District 9 and Avatar were nominated for best picture this past academy award season. Along with that fact there have also been grand box office gains by many science fiction contenders with the likes of Transformers and Star Trek as well as some well conceived cerebral ones such as The Road and Moon. The latest box office contender is Repo Men, a hodgepodge science fiction film attempting to balance different genres in one complete project that has varied results. This film feels extremely borrowed in most of its elements, including plot, twist, style, and substance, but it still contains a moment or two of excitement and intrigue. Never really taking the film to a new level from what we’ve already seen before compared to such films as Total Recall or Logan’s Run, Repo Men is ultimately a one dimensional action film without the depth, persistence, and relevance that most science fiction films usually have even with all of its attempts at blending genres. Although many will be just beside themselves when the twist comes, something that Brazil did magnificently better, it really is only because audiences these days never think when watching their movies and just sit back for the ride. If you want to plug yourself into the Matrix and receive the images rather than what they might signify then this blood filled bland action film just might be for you.

At times the plot and story seem a bit over the top and perhaps satirical but that might only be because our most recent memory of this plot is from an incredibly over the top horror musical Repo: The Genetic Opera. Repo Men aims to tell the story of a Union worker named Remy, who is paid to reclaim mechanical organ transplants if you fail to make your payments on time. The obvious subtlety in referencing the current housing crisis shows just how deep this film is willing to go. After an unfortunate incident with a defibrillator, which also has a stupid twist to it, Remy is given a replacement heart and needs proper payments or else the Repo Men will come and get him. So his eyes are opened now that he has an organ transplant realizing how horrid his work is now considering that these people have families. It wasn’t enough to be stunning people, cutting them up, and leaving them to die, it took a new heart. Even writing these sentences it seems baffling and ridiculous almost as if it’s like the Monty Python sketch from Meaning of Life when the two doctors come to get the organ from a man who possesses a donor card except this lacks the intention of the joke. To make matters more complicated, Remy’s best friend and partner Jake, is called in to track him down. All of this climaxes in a daring break in and attempted destruction of the company’s mainframe to erase all of the data pertaining to over due organs, which is bloody, fast paced, and lacking breathing room for coherent thought. But if you had a chance to think about it you probably would start wondering why you bothered to venture into the theater in the first place seeing as how the film never lifts away from your basic action film.

Luckily for Repo Men it has a good cast to aid in all of its unfulfilled genre explorations, allowing for decent performances in its restricted environment. Jude Law as the protagonist Remy isn’t what you would normally consider an action star but he gets through the film rather well, despite the written character being quite one dimensional. Along with him is Forrest Whitaker who works for the most part as a strong one track minded man who believes that a job is a job no matter what it pertains to. It really is too bad that these two well established actors of integrity couldn’t have more dramatic or mentally challenging scenes with each other. Instead we’re given two weird scenes of exchanged laughter and extreme close ups of Whitaker’s lazy eye. Liev Schrieber is the most successful of the bunch with his character only due to sheer personality with his egotistic profit minded villain, which seems to be a Hollywood must lately since Avatar had the same one dimensional character in its narrative framework. For this action film you do need an established villain and it’s always easier to make them a strictly face value character without delving into weaknesses, flaws, or reasons why they might be the way they are. While the main trio is relatively successful within this constrained film, the rest of the cast isn’t so great, with a girl who seems to have more organ failings and bodily replacements than Joan Rivers to a cold and cliché house wife who doesn’t really have any character. It is always difficult to make a character your own when the script barely as an intelligible idea of what sort of character they are supposed to be, and perhaps story and how characters relate to it should be the primary focus of filmmaking, as if that has been said enough on this particular blog.

The direction by Miguel Sapochnik, a newcomer to the Hollywood selection of directors, isn’t necessarily bad nor is it astounding. Most of the shots, sequences, and overall delivery are borrowed from many films that are infinitely better, such as Total Recall, The Running Man, THX 1138, Logan’s Run, Brazil, and Minority Report. This is Sapochnik’s poor attempt at paying homage to the great science fiction films of the past by mixing their visual elements and plot points rather than the plot’s depth. Even one of the action scenes in the hallway near the end will make any fan of Chan Wook-Park’s Oldboy cringe at the butchering of such a beautiful segment from a film that had much more going for it besides good action. Sure there is an excessive amount of blood among white backgrounds making it visually potent but that really isn’t enough to guide a story. Action has to have purpose and a character’s actions define who they are, and if we can do that then Repo Men can be defined as repetitive, bland, and unoriginal.

It’s unfortunate when a script with the potential to have relevance to modern day problems, including biotechnology and the housing crisis, doesn’t even attempt to allow us to think about the issues and just replace it with nonsensical action sequences. Remy is a man embedded in the system and then fights back against the system he was part of, which is a total bastardization of everything that Brazil embodied in a much grander and eloquent fashion. Repo Men is incredibly familiar, all the way from its borrowed plot to its choreographed action, which makes the experience less than enjoyable for those who appreciate cinema and what it has the potential to do. For those who use the movies as just a general escape and to be mind numbingly entertained than Repo Men has the basics to offer you but never ventures into new territory. If you are feeling anxious to see a science fiction film then the best advice to give you is to just rent an oldie but goodie because everything here has been done before and by more skillful hands.

Grade: C-

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