The trailers for Repo Men hinted at two possible paths for the film: interesting dystopian setting for an unmemorable action flick–or something more special. I am glad to say it’s the latter.
Repo Men, as the title suggests, is about repo man Remy (Jude Law), who reclaims organs from customers who have fallen behind on their payments for artificial livers, spleens, hearts, etc. Victims (or “clients”) are tased, read their rights while unconscious, and then Remy goes to work collecting.
I reviewed the dystopian vampire flick Daybreakers earlier this year and one of the things that impressed me was its ability to be entertaining and have something to say. Some of these sci-fi action films have wafer thin characters/story to leave more room for explosions and sexiness (insert obligatory Michael Bay diss here). At first, thats what you expect from Repo Men: impromptu surgeries, fighting, etc. And I may be the only one, but I often find Jude Law insufferable. However:
This film punched my expectations in the balls.
The film does a decent job of building up the blue collar Remy: we see him struggle with his occupation at home when his wife pressures him to get out of the slicing and dicing game. There’s more time spent tying Remy to his family then most action fairs and it helps paint a believable portrait of this working guy.
On the other hand, we have Remy’s partner, Jake, played by Forest Whitaker. Remy is Jake’s only family; the two men served together in what appears to be Gulf War II before becoming repo men. So when Remy’s wife wins the battle for his occupation change, Jake doesn’t take it so well. Whitaker is always someone to watch (see Ghost Dog or his time on The Shield) and he brings legitimacy to Jake’s fear of abandonment.
Finally, the violence. It’s both awesome and cringe worthy. I’m the type of guy who can watch Hostel with no problem, but show me some surgery on TLC and I’m quivering. One is real, the other isn’t, but in Repo Men both realities collide when Remy is slicing open chest cavities and patching up recently replaced knee caps. :shudder:
One fight scene will immediately remind one of the infamous hallway fight from Oldboy (though it’s not as awesome) and might make you wonder whose side you’re on as our hero brutally kills goon after goon with 300 type flourish and enthusiasm. Topping off the violence roundup is a scene that fans of Cronenberg’s Crash will enjoy. You won’t really know if you’re revolted or turned on.
Ultimately, the reason I recommend Repo Men so highly is its wonderful conclusion. With so many big budget films that repeat the same plot points you can see from miles away (there are at least one or two in Repo Men), I was actually surprised by Repo Men‘s ending, and satisfied with it. After putting up with so many bad endings to various sci-fi stories (Battlestar Galactica, I Am Legend [the film], Y: The Last Man, Marvel’s Civil War), a film that can surprise and satisfy you with a conclusion that doesn’t resort to Lost-like wankery is something to behold.
*for more on the film’s conclusion, look at my posting in the comments section
The film concludes with Remy and love interest, Beth, breaking into The Union headquarters (the company providing the organs) and blowing it up (reminiscent of the lone-man-saves-the-world conclusion in Carpenter’s “They Live”). Cut to the recent future where they’ve escaped to an island paradise.
Except someone needs to free their mind.
In many films (especially horror films), there are very OBVIOUS hints at things to come later in the film, but “Repo Men” avoids this amazingly well. So when we find out that Remy has IMAGINED the heroic destruction of The Union, you’re not pissed off.
1) Throughout the film, Remy narrates how many times he’s been knocked unconscious. This seems at first to be a way to lighten up the film with some voice over bits. However, the final time that Remy is knocked unconscious, unlike previous unconscious moments, he does not update the count (says something like, “For those keeping score, that’s knockout number 3”). So when he “wakes up” from his last KO, but doesn’t narrate the count, that’s a hint that something’s rotten in Denmark.
2) And the REASON he doesn’t update the count is because he never woke up. In a fight with Jake, he’s knocked out and Union’s techs plug him into an internet/matrix that has been mentioned and seen in background advertisements a few times throughout the film, but without the heavy exposition. Much like “The Sixth Sense,” “Repo Men” gives little clues for the twist so it doesn’t look like incompetent writing (“Oh, it was all a dream!”).
Finally, the conclusion where Remy is captured and mentally imprisoned works because of the ridiculous nature of the first conclusion. There are tons of films that end with the good guy taking down the whole system and we roll over and accept it. But that wouldn’t happen in real life. One man could not storm the White House, kill the President, and take over the U.S. The real horror is how entrenched these systems are. The fact that “Repo Men” gives into the reality and not the fantasy wishes of the audiences is worthy of our praise: too many films treat their audiences like gullible twits, but the conclusion to “Repo Men” gives us more credit than that.
Very “Vanilla Sky” conclusion (another would be “Brazil” if you’re watching Gilliam’s cut).
Gotta agree with you there, I find myself being alone in really enjoying this film along with the ending. It is definitely one of the better films ive seen in the cinema this month for sure.
Yes, FINALLY somebody who understands the great ending to this film. I love Repo Men. It is an under-rated gem. The opening sequence had me hooked and the ending blew me away.
I’ve always liked Jude Law. He is very very talented and a joy to watch. Still he surprises me here with the action prowess. I want to see him in more physical roles.
I wholeheartedly agree, although I had to watch that last bit one more time to fully get it. I just finished watching it and was reading IMDB reviews and everyone seems to be bashing this movie except for a few knowledgeable people. It’s upsetting too, because this movie kicked ass. The whole thing was entirely unique and the ending, as you said, totally satisfied me. On one end we have the awesome ending where she’s just handing him weapons while he takes on the hordes and they somehow survive that huge explosion and laugh their heads off.. and on the other you have him stuck in his own mind perpetually with all the Union people still doing what they’re doing and civilization is still a mess. You know a good movie, sir.
Pingback: “Predators” is a damn fine sequel to the original « The Filmsmith
Pingback: Best Horror and Sci-Fi of 2010 | The Filmsmith