Saturday, March 20, 2010

Repo Men (2010)

There are times when Repo Men (2010)* is a pretty awesome sci-fi thriller, electrified by the energy of a high-concept and timely story at the hands of a young, stylistic director looking to make his mark.  It’s sleek, it’s cool and it’s (sometimes surprisingly, daringly) bold.

  Then there are the more aggravating elements; the extreme illogic in the storytelling, the excruciatingly pointless “twist” and the lethargic approach to desperate times.  All of those, mind you, are the result of the story, a collaboration from TV scribe Garrett Lerner (who does far better work on House) and novelist Eric Garcia, whose literary take, The Repossession Mambo, hit shelves last fall.  I can’t tell you if the book is better, or if it makes the same mistakes.  But I can tell you that all the neato futuristic gadgets, enjoyable performances and stylish direction are ultimately rendered meaningless when cast against the glaring flaws in Repo Men’s foundation.

  You can forgive a film its storytelling leaps.  When it comes to a high-action Sci-Fi flick about people becoming half-machine in order to extend life, you kind of have to.  You can look past the idea of company men ripping artificial hearts and livers and limbs from clients who have fallen behind on payments, accepting that in the not-so-distant future, this is somehow an acceptable behavior. 

  You can probably get over the fact that said clients are innocent people, financial issues aside, and that your film’s heroes are essentially just murdering them, since the clients weren’t on their death beds when they agreed to these transplants, and would have at least continued to live and be with their families for even a short amount of time. 

  You can, possibly, buy into the idea that these guys actually think they’re doing a good thing, abiding by rules and keeping a sense of order.  And you can, I guess, dig the idea of Jude Law’s repo man changing his moral outlook on things once he himself becomes a client, even though he always had a family, is presented as a cognitive individual, and is someone who surely would have put himself in his victim’s shoes at some point before the surgery that pits him against his company, his best friend (an excellent Forrest Whitaker) and his society. 

  But you go with it, because this is an action flick, and because the filmmakers are at least trying to make a blockbuster with a message.  But as the logical flaws pile up, and the inconsistencies grow in number, it becomes harder and harder to stay in the movie’s fun zone, to go along for the ride.
  As we hit the third act, the flick gets good again.  It’s moving with purpose, and the action hits hard, choreographed sweetly to an appropriately moody soundtrack.  Director Miguel Sapochnik hits his stride, visually, emotionally and boldly.  And then…it all comes crashing down with a twist that renders everything we’ve just seen meaningless.

  Repo Men suffers from the same desperate devices as Remember Me (2010), a romantic teen melodrama that, in its closing moments, switches gears completely and pretends, inappropriately, to have been something else altogether.  Repo Men makes a similarly stupid decision, taking us on a journey – the BEST part of the movie – and then hits us with a twist so errant and unnecessary that it takes away from everything the film has just accomplished.  What’s worse, it cheats in order to do so, narratively, logically and emotionally.  What’s REALLY worse – it isn’t even an original twist.  So it accomplishes nothing.  Or at least nothing positive.

  As a genre flick, Repo Men sits comfortably on the shelf next to Daybreakers (2010), another Sci-Fi action flick digging into deeper moral wells than the average offender.  But it isn’t as good, or thematically interesting.  Sapochnik’s flick can be fun, and can be cool, but it’s poorly paced and irrevocably tainted.

  *Not to be confused with Repo Man (1984), the punk-rock Emilo Estevez flick that’s become a cult classic.

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