Director Alex Cox may not be a household name, but he's got a couple of very influential mid-1980s films under his belt, namely Sid & Nancy and Repo Man. One's a brutal biopic of Sex Pistol Sid Vicious while the other is a mondo-bizarre hodgpepodge of storytelling, resulting in a bona fide cult classic that is easily Emilio Estevez' finest hour. Polar opposites in style and substance, both films were like a bitch slap to my wide-eyed, movie-going face back then. For that Cox has earned a permanent spot of cool in my head, and while his subsequent output has not necessarily matched either of those for me emotionally and comedically I always have looked forward to anything he was attached to.
His latest outing is Repo Chick, and right out of the box my curiosity was piqued for all the obvious reasons. Was this a sequel? Well, turns out it is not, but as writer/director Cox explains in the supplemental material there is more than a thematic link between the two, though they remain quite different. And do they ever. For Repo Chick, Cox goes for complete green screen technology (partly budgetary/partly artistic), allowing the director to create a kitschy modern-day fantasy world where miniatures populate the backgrounds and strange visuals abound. An opening title card claims this is a true story (ha!) but that only "the dimensions have been changed" (ha! ha!).
The film opens with the theft of some highly dangerous "growler" bombs, and the reminder that evil corporate giants like GMAC have allowed foreclosures to the turn the country into a land of the greatly displaced. The story centers on a spoiled L.A. rich kid, Pixxi De La Chasse , played to adorably hot Mean Girls perfection by Jaclyn Jonet, she of the world's whitest teeth.
Despite being an often arrested, self-proclaimed media mogul and thong designer, poor Pixxi is about to be cut off from the family fortune unless she gets a job. Through a curious turn of events she lands a gig as the titular individual, working for a low-rent recovery team lead by Miguel Sandoval and Robert Beltran. Add to the mix a mythical trio of oldtime train cars worth a $1,000,000 reward, Pixxi's oddball entourage and a social commentary on golf, communism and veganism that barrels in, seemingly out of nowhere.
Cox loads this with all sorts of familiar faces (Xander Berkely, Chloe Webb, Karen Black, Rosanna Arquette, Zander Schloss) but it is Jonet who owns this one handily. She plays the part of the self-centered Valley Girl with a caustic blend of disdain and disinterest, toting guns and eye-rolling sarcasm in an array of stylish pink outfits. It's not a deep role, but Jonet exhibits a nice sense of comic timing and she looks damn good brandishing a handgun. Damn good.
Repo Chick is a trippy experiment from Cox, augmenting cartoon-ish backgrounds and miniatures into a story that dips hard into enjoyable absurdo land in the final act. By that time, however, you'll either be on board or have long since popped this one out of your player. You know who you are.
The AVC-encoded 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is chock full of pretty, bright colors (most of them worn by Jonet), and is an improvement over the standard DVD release. Not the definitive BD release of the year, as this isn't a flawless presentation, but the minimalist/green screen techniques employed by Cox lend the entire film a giddy, cotton candy palette, making the minor imperfections (the odd bit of background pixellation) tolerable. Fleshtones are warm, and the level of facial detail is a noticeable step up from the SD version, if you're keeping score. This was an extremely low-budget title, and BD or not I'm willing to cut Cox come slack.
Audio options included are Dolby Stereo 2.0 and Dolby TrueHD 5.0. Skip the relatively anemic 2.0 offering and go with the TrueHD, not that it's going to blow your socks off, but it does provide dramatically cleaner, clearer dialogue. Not much in the way of any rear channel activity, but the front speakers carry the bulk of the action, with clear voices and a minimum of directional panning; featured music/songs fare much better than any of the sound effect cues. For a rather barebones project, the presentation is certainly within acceptable limits. English and Spanish subs are also provided.
Aside from a theatrical trailer, the only extra is a rather revealing behind-the-scenes piece entitled Better Than Money (28m:20s). In it we follow Cox and he drives to the shoot, discussing the budget, the process and how this film fits in alongside his cult classic Repo Man. There's plenty of green screen production footage and comments from most of the cast and production crew, as well.
This one won't appeal to everyone, but if you like 'em visually experimental with a cast of quirky characters you could do much worse than Repo Chick.
Oh, and I did mention a hot chick with a gun?
For me, this was a lot of fun from start to finish, with Cox pulling a cult-star-making performance from newcomer Jaclyn Jonet while poking a sharp satirical stick at what's wrong with the world today.
Rent it, if you're adventurous.