Feature film freshman Miguel Sapochnik’s film “Repo Men” has had the burden of overcoming a growing Internet comment board controversy in which fans of the cult favorite “Repo! The Genetic Opera” claim that Sapochinik’s movie, based off of a novel by Eric Garcia called “The Repossession Mambo” is a “blatant rip-off” of “Repo!TGO” as fans call it.
The meat of both movies is the not-so-unimaginable premise that in a not-too-distant future, a company has solved the world problem of organ transplant waiting lists by perfecting, manufacturing and leasing artificial organs. But that’s pretty much where the similarities of the two movies end.
In “Repo Men” the company is the Union and their products are called artiforgs. These babies are literal lifesavers and Liev Schreiber (“The Omen”) plays Frank, the smooth-talking sales manager who markets them as such. Like any good salesman, Frank offers convenient financing on the pricey artiforgs with a low APR of “only” 19.6 percent. Add in the “generous” 96-day grace period, and customers are willing to pay an arm and leg for a much needed liver.
However, once that grace period expires, The Union sends their highly trained collection staff to retrieve the organ from delinquent lessees. (At no cost to the customer of course well, except for the liver, plus the aforementioned arm and leg, and probable loss of life.)
See, the best of Union’s highly trained collection staff are Remy and Jake (“Sleuth’s” Jude Law and “The Last King of Scotland’s” Forest Whitaker”). They are life-long friends and former military men currently without a war to fight. They have fallen into and in love with the repo man profession because it gives them opportunity to do what they do best: kill.
But as with every workaholic, Remy’s dedication to his job is beginning to interfere with his relationship with his family. His wife is nagging him to transfer to the sales department a move that not only jeopardizes the status quo Jake is comfortable with but also their friendship. Forced to make a decision that will either cost him his wife and son or his best friend, Remy reluctantly chooses to make the transfer, after doing the proverbial “one last” repo job.
Up to this point “Repo Men” plays as an amazingly funny dark comedy. Despite the bloody and graphic repossessions, the first 30 minutes of the film are full of laugh out loud moments. Working from a screenplay written by the original novel’s author and television’s “House M.D” writer Garrett Lerner, Law and Whitaker demonstrate an on-screen chemistry missing from some of the best buddy cop films.
As Remy goes to do his last repossession, the movie almost seamlessly shifts moods showing a rare glimpse at the emotional side of a science-fiction character’s story arc. He must repossess the artiforg heart from T-Bone (Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA), a musician he’s long admired who is tragically delinquent in his payments. But during the procedure, a bit of an on-the-job accident occurs leaving Remy knocked out cold.
When Remy awakes from a coma, he is distressed to find that he now is the owner of a top-of-the line Union artificial heart complete with the huge price tag. Ironically though, he no longer has the heart to do the Union’s dirty work and quickly falls behind on his own payments. Even more ironically, his ex-partner, Jake is the repo man eventually assigned to retrieve the heart.
From here “Repo Men” transitions effortlessly between being graphically violent, grippingly sad, and surprisingly romantic, all the while keeping itself grounded in sinisterly dark humor. Helping Remy elude his former partner is Beth (Alice Braga of “I Am Legend”) a sort of new millennium “Bionic Woman” with more artiforgs than organic parts. Both she and Schreiber showcase what talented supporting actors can do in a well written role.
Shot on location in Canada, the un-named city that offers cover to Remy and Beth looks a lot like a futuristic Manhattan - on steroids. Almost as complementary to the film as a supporting actor is the splendid soundtrack featuring a diverse assortment of artists from Rosemary Clooney to Method Man.
For movie lovers with complex tastes “Repo Men” is a theatrical gumbo simmering with wicked humor, complicated relationships, well choreographed martial arts, tear jerking romance and wince inducing gore. Add in popcorn and sodas and you’ve got a date both him and her will enjoy. Fans of films like “Fight Club”, “Kiss of the Dragon” and even “Titantic” will all find something to enjoy throughout this film’s 111minute runtime.