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I had been waiting for over a year to finally see Repo! The Genetic Opera and while I enjoyed it thoroughly, it wasn’t the masterpiece I had hoped it’d be. Very easily a cult classic in its eccentricity, I thought maybe Hollywood decided to piggyback the concept and make a more mainstream actioner out of the subject when the announcement of Repo Men came down the pike. In reality, however, the new film is based on a novel titled The Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia, a co-writer of the script as well. Surprisingly, the novel doesn’t get much love over on Amazon.com, even more interesting considering Garcia also wrote the book Matchstick Men was based on, a very solid con artist work in its own rite. Saying nothing of the source literature, I will admit to really getting behind Miguel Sapochnik’s cinematic adaptation as it infused everything from sci-fi to horror gore to action and thrills, with a little romance thrown in for good measure. It may not be a masterpiece, but its pretty darn effective in its goals to entertain and make you squirm.

The concept seemed so fresh when Darren Lynn Bousman was tossing around the premise for his horror/musical, and although it may appear a bit used now—especially after Daybreakers earlier this year altered it to artificial blood for vampires—the idea still caters to my propensity for moral quandaries and the human conscience. The Repo are the task force working within the multi-billion dollar company that services humanity with all sorts of fabricated organs, bone, and tissue. When a client’s payment is over three months late, these mostly military-trained men go out on the streets to take the product back. Just like any type of financing, repossession is common and always messy. Unfortunately, the product here has a little more weight considering most of the past due parts are vital for sustaining life. Luckily Repo consists of men that don’t necessarily keep a razor sharp edge on the line between right and wrong. A job is a job and they do it without remorse or guilt. If you can’t pay, well at least you have the opportunity to have an ambulance on call to help after it’s all over. It’s just too bad that most people run or beg, necessitating tranquilizers and the option to be asked while unconscious.

Remy is a family man whose wife would like to see him go into the sales end and stop murdering defenseless, nameless people each and every day with his thug grade school buddy Jake. The money is too good and the thrill too exciting, but just when it looks like love might conquer all, his last ever job throws a curveball. After a sea of recoveries consists of runners, criers, and fighters, Remy’s final repo is of a legendary music producer of which he’s a fan. Totally understanding of his predicament, RZA’s T-Bone requests to finish his song, declines hospital help, and lies down to breathe his last breath before the IRS takes that too. Instead, a faulty defibrillator almost kills Remy, causing him to need his own arti-forg—a new heart. Now he has become one of those he hunts; it plays with his mind and renders him unable to cut and take an organ for repossession. The payments mount, his wife leaves him, and it comes to the point where he must run for his life, best friend Jake on his trail. Finding a woman in the fringes, Beth, with about eight past due arti-forgs in her, Remy decides to take down the company and get himself and her out of the system.

The acting is great throughout, from the leads down to the supporting players. Liev Schreiber is always excellent as the amoral suit using the bottom-line as his excuse for bloodlust and his boss to Remy and Jake is no different here. Each time he does his spiel to a customer, saying, “Do it for your family, do it for yourself,” you can see the smug salesmen behind the smile. Brazilian actress Alice Braga plays Beth and once more does a little ass kicking in her downtime from being the romantic interest to the hero of the story. She is an enigma of attraction and sexuality mixed with strength and skill. Unfazed by doing some dirty work, she never loses the façade of that pretty lounge singer she is introduced to us as. Watching her take Jude Law’s hand every time they run into danger seems just as natural as if they were taking a stroll on the beach. As for Law, playing Remy, I am so glad the filmmakers let him keep the accent, even saying “Oy!” when attempting to get someone’s attention. Just goes to show that we don’t care if a Brit and an American grew up together—it’s the future, (love the Times Square update with monorail), so maybe the world is a complete mixing pot. He handles the compassion and complexities of the role with skill, showing once more why I try to see all the work he does.

Forest Whitaker seems a bit out of place, although he pulls it off. Never really playing the man on the field, it was great to see him out there getting into some scraps. The action sequences are well choreographed and get the adrenaline flowing. Seeing him and Law kicking butt as they raid a ship looking to take Repo candidates out of the country is fantastic, and their rapport with each other is completely authentic. There are plenty of moments for action, right to the end with a scene reminiscent of Oldboy, only with sharp cuts and edits. Definitely using an Equilibrium-type vibe, I was hooked from the beginning, up until what I thought was the end. They do throw in a little bit of a twist, one that I initially looked at as a huge cop-out, but since have begun to warm to it a bit. The conclusion tries to let a happy and sad ending coexist, giving it all a bittersweet shimmer that actually fits considering the way relationships are made and broken depending on what each person feels about the process of Repo and what they are willing to do for it or against it. Any trepidation I have with the outcome or what leads up to it pales in comparison to the brilliant use of music, however. Used ironically, used to get the heart beating as it blares over the action, or just used for soundtrack purposes, Repo Men deserves some points for its sound work alone.

Repo Men 7/10

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photography:
[1] Beth (ALICE BRAGA) and Remy (JUDE LAW) try to escape agents in “Repo Men”, a futuristic action-thriller set in a world where artificial organs are available to anyone willing to take the financial risk. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures Copyright: © 2010 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
[2] (L to R) Frank (LIEV SCHREIBER) and his enforcer Jake (FOREST WHITAKER) in “Repo Men”, a futuristic action-thriller set in a world where artificial organs are available to anyone willing to take the financial risk. Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes Copyright: © 2010 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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