Repo Men
Universal // Unrated // $29.98 // July 27, 2010
Review by Casey Burchby | posted July 18, 2010
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Repo Men is a broken sci-fi action film that suffers from unfocused direction and irregular shifts in tone. Despite a premise that could have produced either a solid thriller or a bitter pill of a satire, the film can't sustain its own ideas long enough for them to register in any significant or memorable way. Newcomer Miguel Sapochnik struggles to create a mood, but only succeeds in creating a visual rip-off of Blade Runner while mishandling his strong cast.

In a near-future extrapolation of our own society, a corporation called The Union offers its stricken customers artificial replacement organs, obviating long waits for human donors. Like many companies, The Union makes most of its money extending large lines of credit at high rates of interest to its customers, many of whom cannot afford the organs they so desperately need. Remy (Jude Law) and Jake (Forest Whitaker) are two of The Union's repo men, charged with forcibly extracting organs when customers default on their accounts. It's vile work, and Remy is looking to move into a sales job instead. On his final job as a repo man, Remy is injured, and winds up in a hospital with a new heart - one supplied by The Union. No longer able to perform his job, Remy leaves The Union and joins up with a singer named Beth (Alice Braga), who has multiple past-due artificial organs. Pursued by The Union, the pair embark on a mission to destroy the company and save themselves.

The screenplay by Eric Garcia (author of the Anonymous Rex series of novels) and Garrett Lerner (of House, M.D. and other TV work) holds the seeds of an interesting, timely story. Its premise is sufficiently plausible, particularly in view of the economic context in which it is set. There is something interesting in here about the way we live now, the lengths to which we are forced to go in order to survive, and the self-defeating aspects of our economic system. This could have been a gritty, character-oriented piece with some meaty ideas and punchy pieces of action. But the script's thematic core is mostly cast aside by director Sapochnik, who is overly concerned with visuals and gore.

The result is a choppy mess. Some scenes go for laughs, with a clever self-aware wit and comically-staged visuals. Others are Verhoeven-esque gross-outs, with gouged flesh and flying blood. The tonal chaos of it all takes us from satirical comedy to dire noir-ish desperation, leaving us unable to make head or tail of the characters in the midst of it all. Despite decent work by Law, Whitaker, Braga, and Liev Schreiber as the repo men's boss at The Union, these characters feel shapeless, tossed about willy-nilly by a director who hasn't taken the time to sort them out for himself. Some films are carefully planned in advance, with a very specific script, storyboards, and extensive rehearsal. Others are "created" in the editing room, shaping shot footage into a cohesive whole, despite the fact that the final product may conflict with the film as it was scripted. Repo Men falls into neither category. It's a movie that suggests a lack of vision at all stages of production. It's a sloppy mess that is barely passable as a weeknight's entertainment.


The 2.35:1 transfer by Universal is fairly strong. Visually, Repo Men stays pretty dark, so the solid blacks are important. Contrast is good, too, and details are clear. Little to no digital noise is evident, and compression defects are nil. Overall, this is good work.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is just average. The mix is a little too busy at times, with lackluster separation. The score by Marco Beltrami, while ever-present, is nonetheless lost in the mix. Surrounds, which should be more active given the genre and action-oriented plot, don't pop quite as they should. But it's not bad work, either. Dialogue is clear, and occasional details shine through.

Bonus Content
First, the DVD contains two cuts of the film: the original theatrical cut, and an unrated version that is eight minutes longer. This review is based on the theatrical cut.

Bonus content begins with a full-length Commentary Track featuring director Miguel Sapochnik along with writers Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner. There are a selection of Deleted Scenes (8:36) with optional commentary. Unedited versions of The Union Commercials (4:11), seen only fleetingly in the finished film, are next. Finally, a very brief featurette called Inside the Visual Effects (6:08), narrated by Sapochnik and Garcia, looks at the different effects processes involved in completing the film.

Final Thoughts

This decent-looking but tonally maddening and scattershot sci-fi thriller wastes a good cast and a good premise. Genre fanatics will want to check it out and may even be mildly entertained; everyone else will just want to rent it.

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