With a release date serendipitously dovetailing with real world events, Repo Men could be read as stark satire of our nation’s heated healthcare debate, if not for the bottomless buckets of gore that keep getting in the way. A jet-black comedy about the high wages of mercenary medicine, the film features Jude Law and Forest Whitaker as a death panel on wheels — a two-man team of collection agents specializing in recovering human organs. In this vaguely near, dystopian future, the insurance industry is even more unscrupulous than today, pushing artificial organ "upgrades" on an unsuspecting populace that can’t seem to keep up with the payments. That’s where our boys come in, armed with Tasers, scalpels and the usual piles of paperwork, in duplicate of course, ready to retrieve the company’s property by any means necessary.
This questionable line of work gives Law’s character only brief food for thought, until a botched job leaves him with an artificial ticker of his own, and a swiftly growing pile of bills. Faced with his own repossession, he goes rogue, turning the tables on his corrupt bosses and his borderline psycho best pal, played with Whitaker’s trademark weird intensity
Not to be confused with the beloved, underground punk rock alien Emilio Esteves epic of the same name from 1984, Repo Men crackles with its own quirky energy, even while swiping bits and pieces of better films. Director Miguel Sapochnik is a pretty shameless thief, but at least he knows how to steal from the good stuff. Repo Men has the same super structure as the cheesy ’70s classic Logan’s Run, with doses of cynical futurism and corporate paranoia borrowed from Children of Men, Blade Runner and Brazil, among others.
The most glaring steal comes in the hyper-violent, blood soaked climax, which straight-up lifts a sequence from the Korean masterpiece Oldboy, right down to the use of a claw hammer as a deadly weapon. The nods and homages are cute, but they aren’t enough to elevate the flick above its odd buddy cop-slasher fusion, with too many close ups of pulsating livers and shredded tissues killing the dark laughs that lay underneath. Repo Men is fun in spurts, but its casual cruelty eventually turns its promise into a bloody mess.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.