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In any other conversation, the words sick, twisted and gross are usually considered or portent a bad thing. That conversation would take place in the world outside of Hollywood. On the silver screen, sick, twisted and gross could equal a major box-office blockbuster.  With its combination of martial arts action, dark humour and a futuristically feasible sci-fi storyline, Repo Men could very well be one of those films.

As commonly done with oneís car or home, in the future if you are unfortunate enough to require an organ transplant, you can finance a replacement part.  No longer will a desperately needed kidney or liver be out of reach.  Waiting lists for natural organs are a thing of the past as artificial ones can be purchased through a company called The Union on a payment plan.  These mechanical marvels come at a high cost, and, as with your house or vehicle, if you happen to fall behind on payments, youíll have to give back that mortgaged lung or heart.  Remy is one of the best at what he does.  Itís his job to retrieve those delinquent organs from late-paying clients.  Armed with taser darts and a satchel full of really sharp knives and scalpels, Remy employs a rib spreader to dig in and yank a metal liver out of a temporarily stunned target with the skill of a surgeon.  The on-the-fly operations are over in moments and depending on what was repossessed, our victim is either minus a functioning kidney or relieved of his suffering forever.  ďA jobís a job,Ē is the motto of Remy and his best pal/partner in repossession, Jake, as they dispatch those in arrears with the emotional detachment of a sheriff posting a foreclosure notice on someoneís home.  It isnít until Remyís wife gives him the gate, unable to deal with the horror of what her husband does for a living and his own interaction with a faulty defibrillator that everything changes.  The gamy wiring gives Remy a new perspective about his chosen profession because now heís not just the companyís top repo man, heís a client.  He loses his taste for pulling body parts out of people in the same situation that heís in and sure enough, the gigantic payments needed for his own replacement ticker arenít met.  Remy is now one of those he hunted and he goes on the run, hiding in short stay hotel rooms, grimy tunnels and abandoned warehouses with other refugees in an effort to keep himself and Beth, an almost wholly bionic young woman who shows him the ropes of being on the lam, in one piece.

In 1983ís Monty Pythonís the Meaning of Life, two men turn up at the home of an old man who signed an organ donor card and demand his liver.  Despite his vain protests - ďBut Iím using itĒ - the gory extraction sans anesthesia, shows the audience what heís made of.   What seemed so absurd two decades ago is slightly less so in the grim outlook of Repo Men.  Taking place in a near future of haves and have nots, bedecked with Blade Runner-esque backgrounds, Repo Men is more a cautionary tale for todayís reality.  As politicians here in the U.S. literally battle it out as to whether or not to provide basic healthcare to all our citizens; this world in which people are able to survive using mechanical organs only if they can afford them doesnít seem that far flung.  If people can legally abscond with your car in the middle of the night for being shy on payments, then why not your liver?  In the age of Repo Men, thereís not much difference and certainly no particular care as to what a human life is worth past the point of debt collection.  As Remyís slimy boss, Frank (- played with unctuous glee by Liev Schreiber) points out, the way The Union makes its money is by people actually missing their deadlines - canít get the organs back to reuse if they pay in full.  The hives of folks who simply canít afford their huge premiums gathering together in camps to run for their lives away from the repo men is a logical result of the cold-blooded policies that turns human beings into dollar signs.  The more late organs collected, the more cash for the repo men.  The graphicness of Remyís extractions reduces these folks into pieces of meat with a prize inside.  The dire premise is leavened with darkly humourous flashbacks of Remyís life and what led him on his career path.  Remy chimes in in voice over, part narrator/part self-analyst to give us his self-effacing takes on his foibles and the situations around him.  Taking bits not only from Monty Python (- The aforementioned sketch can actually be glimpsed on a TV set.) and Blade Runner, Repo Men also shows influence from other films like I, Robot in some of its futuristic gizmos (- I wish there had been more) and Park Chan-wookís Oldboy in its climactic showdown between Remy and a few dozen of his former colleagues down a long corridor festooned with many handy instruments, including, yes, a hammer.  The bleak humour would have been better served in the hands of someone like Edgar Wright, director of 2004ís Shaun of the Dead, but manages to amuse at times.  As does the oh-no-they-didnít approach to the graphic eviscerations necessary to retrieve The Unionís property; a bizarre romantic interlude between Remy and Beth showcases an entirely unsexy form of penetration as the two literally dig into each other with barcode scanners to locate their various mechanical bits.  The more squeamish in the audience should be warned to keep away from the concession stand for this one.  The fight scenes are unexpectedly well done with director Miguel Sapochnik listening to the wisdom of LMD and keeping his camera relatively still.  As a result, both stars Jude Law and Forest Whitakerís moves show up very believably though I donít think either would have been considered an action star before.

Some unwieldy pacing at the beginning and middle and a dubious twist are the flies in the ointment (Dear Hollywood, please cut it out with the unnecessarily funky endings, luv Diva).  Though it never quite hits action movie nirvana, Repo Men is serviceable and entertaining, and if you can get past the OTT gross-out factor, a fun time at the cinema.

 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

March 19th, 2010

 

 

 

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Photos

(Courtesy of  Universal Pictures)

 

 

 

 

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