REPO MEN, not by any stretch of the imagination to be confused with the similarly monikered Alex Cox masterpiece of a few decades back, is a bewilderingly awful concoction that seems to have been written by committee. A committee whose individual members were forbidden to contact one another and who seem, collectively, to be ignorant of even the most rudimentary fundamentals of storytelling, screenwriting, or coherence. That one of the committee is also the author of the novel on which the film is based, “Repossession Mambo” is all the more bewildering.
The flick postulates a near future where THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS X is in theaters, and human organs for transplant are manufactured, not harvested. These organs are also wildly expensive in this future where the life-saving procedures are not covered by any sort of health insurance. The Union, the corporation who does the manufacturing, also provides its customers with financing options. As with any finance scheme, when the borrower falls behind, the item being financed is repossessed. Of course, that means the borrower is also dead, but his or her passing is handled with complete professionalism, if no empathy, by the crack team of repossessors who return the organ to The Union, and the ex-recipient back to the dust whence he or she came.
What might, in competent hands, even barely competent hands, have been a terrific extrapolation of a debt economy gone very, very wrong instead suffers an identity crisis and drags its audience along with it. Does it want to be a drama, a comedy, camp, a thriller, an action flick, a social satire, or something else altogether? We may never know, so, you will pardon the expression, choppy is the transition from mood to mood as the action flits from one situation to another with precious little for the audience to work with.
The dialogue is flat and tinny, like a rusty corrugated roof gradually disintegrating. The narrative arc is muddled with leaps, bounds, and general silliness. The gratuitous violence is soporific, and the clinically accurate gore, of which there is a similar abundance, quickly becomes repetitive. Jude Law, as the repo man who grows a conscience, spends the film looking queasy, even before his third bout of unconsciousness leads to an involuntary heart transplant and the attendant pesky debt. Forrest Whitaker as his best buddy and partner in repossessions, is left with a character who isn’t sure if he’s Big Bird or Hannibal Lecter. The only one who comes close to getting out of this mess alive is Liev Schreiber, as The Union’s sales manager, a wondrously slimy piece of work whom Scheiber has cocooned in a dispassionate irony that has only the most tangential connection to the film everyone else is in.
Even the twist that should explain why Law’s character would bring a gun to a knife fight and then choose to use a knife, as well as a hacksaw, can’t save this mess. Plot holes abound, from the small but pertinent question of why Law’s best friend wouldn’t spot him the cash to keep the repo men from coming after his new heart, to larger ones such as why he would go on the lam with a drug-addicted singer he’s seen exactly once, using valuable time to nurse her through a cold-turkey withdrawal instead of heading out of town before his expiration date comes up. Law’s voice-overs do nothing to annotate the action, while his character’s citing of the Schroediger’s Cat conundrum smacks of desperate showboating rather than thoughtful exposition.
REPO MEN may be the worst film of 2010. It’s early days yet, but other contenders will be hard pressed to compete with this film that begs for a negative scale in order to accurately rate it.