In the early days of science fiction, the genre was used as a way to tell an indirect social commentary, showing the possible extremes of our future if we continue down a certain path. For example, look at the sci-fi films of the ‘50s – many of them featured monsters that came to be as a result of using nuclear bombs. Science fiction was used to say something that you weren’t allowed say back then. Good science fiction nowadays still holds true to that ideal. And Repo Men has fun applying that formula. It serves as a fun cautionary tale about the United States government, health care and our jobs.
The futuristic world in which Repo Men is set is vastly different from ours. A global recession sparked a world-changing war. The now-rebuilt megacities lie just outside the wasted cities of the world that we know. This new world may be far from the one we know, but the problems their people face mirror those that we currently face in America.
People cannot afford their medical needs. A grim reaper middleman lies between them and the help they need. That company is The Union. If you’ve got a medical need, they can help you. The Union is so technologically advanced that they can replace any joint or organ with a guaranteed mechanical one. All you have to do is agree to pay an insanely high monthly fee. What The Union doesn’t tell you is that if you fail to make your payments, they’re going to send out a brute to repossess your kidney, liver, heart – whatever it may be. If you die in the process, so be it.
Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes) plays Remy, a “repo man” for The Union. Although he and his childhood best friend Jake (Forest Whitaker, The Last King Of Scotland) have been successful repo partners for years, Remy is putting in for a sales position. Since his wife is threatening to leave him if he doesn’t quit his “dirty” job, Remy takes one last repo job – one that turns sour, leaving him injured and in need of a new heart. With death as the only other option, Remy signs the papers and becomes indebted to The Union.
In the process, something changes in Remy. The thought of knowing that he’s completely helpless and dependant on The Union shakes him up, making it impossible for him to do his job. In receiving a mechanized heart, Remy has grown a figurative one. Quickly, Remy is unable to pay The Union his monthly bill, getting himself on the repo list, leaving him two options: run and hide or stay and fight.
Repo Men starts off on a serious side, but quickly makes you aware that it is not going to take itself seriously. The violence is so graphically over-the-top that you can laugh out loud in the theaters without other viewers thinking you’re sadistic. The violence isn’t so much gritty as it is styled, like a comic book. The look of the megacities appears to be a copy-and-paste job from the ones in Blade Runner and The Fifth Element. Combine the design and violence elements and you’ve got a hybrid of Minority Report and Fight Club.
Although the story completely falls apart by the end, Repo Men is a type of “guilty pleasure” movie. You can’t say that you enjoy it for the story – because it just isn’t true – but for the reason that it is pure fun, as dark and gritty as it may come across. If you can enjoy a bad movie intentionally made extra bad for over-the-top entertainment’s sake, then don’t miss Repo Men.
Photo credit: Universal Studios