Repo Men is as mangled and messy as the unfortunate victims it portrays. Strong lead actors and mindless action are not enough to save it.
Screen Rant's Kofi Outlaw reviews Repo Men
I've said this in previous reviews: A movie can fail for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's the actors who drop the ball, other times it's the director who is inept. And sometimes, as is the case with Repo Men, the studio is primarily guilty for the mess that ends up staining the screen.
In Repo Men, Jude Law stars as Remy, an ex-military man just trying to make a living in a future where just about everything is for sale - including cybernetic body parts for those with failing or ugly bodies. Remy and his lifelong buddy Jake (Forest Whitaker) work for "The Union," a stereotypical evil corporation that sells these mechanical body parts at exorbitant interest rates, and then sends jackals like Remy and Jake to repossess "the property" when people go broke trying to pay the bill.
Remy and Jake are the best at what they do and truly love it. One problem: Remy is also a family man whose wife (Carice van Houten) thinks his bloody business is no way to set an example for their son. Facing increasing pressure at home, Remy decides to tell Jake and his snake-oil salesman boss, Frank (Liev Schreiber), that he's moving out of repo and into a boring desk job.
Needless to say, things don't go as planned. While working on his last job, Remy suffers a near-fatal injury that leaves him dependent on one of The Union's artificial hearts. Jake and Frank think it's no big deal - Remy can just cut a few people up, repossess some Union wares and pay-off his debt. Only Remy can no longer stomach the dirty work. Soon enough, Remy is facing a debt he can't pay and The Union dispatches his former colleagues (led by Jake, of course) to reclaim his heart.
What I've just described is basically the same synopsis that Universal has been using to sell Repo Men to the masses. However, while the movie is much more convoluted than a simple sci-fi/action flick, it's not realized enough to be taken as a thought-provoking sci-fi allegory. What we ultimately get is a botched narrative that seems to start, finish, re-start and wander aimlessly for a good portion of its over-extended runtime. Never once does the movie achieve any sense of coherence - right up until the ridiculous third act and (in my opinion) enraging ending.
If you aren't aware, here's a brief history of Repo Men: the film is based on a book by Eric Garcia called The Repossession Mambo. If you've encountered the book, it's obvious that Garcia always intended for the story to be a movie (it has "screenplay" basically stamped on it). Garret Lerner (Smallville, Roswell) jumped in and helped Garcia develop the book into a screenplay, which caught the eye of director Miguel Sapochnik (The Dreamer) and star Jude Law. Whitaker was brought onboard late in the game (and I'll never know why he agreed to do this).
I happen to know first-hand that Sapochnik filmed much of the book's backstory. Those flashbacks included relevant material such as Remy's tumultuous history with his multiple wives and his years in the military, where he and Jake learned to be cold killers. However, in the 2 1/2 years between when Repo Men was filmed and when we're seeing it in theaters, virtually all of that backstory was "streamlined" into the sci-fi action flick the studio is promoting. I will personally speculate that the only reason we're even seeing this film in theaters is because the studio hopes to cash in on the movie's obvious parallels to the current health care crisis.
It's really a shame that Repo Men got hacked up the way it did, because the chemistry between Law and Whitaker really is the high point of the film. In fact, their chemistry is so strong that I would be more willing to watch a Repo Men prequel than I would this film. And while both lead actors display some impressive martial arts choreography during the action bits, the CGI blood spray (a la Ninja Assassin) is ridiculous when compared to the cringe-inducing "repo sequences," where Law and Whitaker perform their ghastly back-alley surgery on unfortunate victims. Sapochnik's direction is truly sadistic, showing off as much of the brutal dissection and butchery as he can possibly fit into an R-rating. I cringe to think what an unrated director's cut of this film will show.
As for the supporting actors: Liev Schreiber (Wolverine) does well enough playing an immoral company man who values the bottom line over human life - but really, it's more of a caricature than an actual developed character.
The lovely Alice Braga (soon to be seen in Predators) is pretty much wasted as a love interest who gets awkwardly shoved into the film's second act. Braga's character, Beth, is basically a filthy street crackhead held together by black market cybernetics - obviously the type of girl a guy who looks like Jude Law would blow off his pretty wife for.
As for that aforementioned third act: Jude Law established in Sherlock Holmes that he has action-star potential, and his work in Repo Men certainly evidences it. However, the big final fight sequence (you've seen in it the trailers) is basically a watered-down version of that now-classic hallway sequence from Old Boy. After that, we get some ridiculous fetishistic attempt to meld erotic and violent imagery - and if THAT isn't draining enough... oh wait! There's a twist ending!
Without spoiling anything: I almost threw my popcorn at the screen.
If you find the premise interesting, like Jude Law and/or Forest Whitaker, then wait for Repo Men to hit DVD or premium cable. If those selling points don't even interest you that much, then skip it altogether - your time will be better spent.
If you want to talk about the specifics of plot including any twists in the story, head over to our Repo Men spoilers discussion.