Judging a book by its cover: We're told we should never do it, but we're all guilty of it. As far as films go, it's a necessary evil. How else do we pick out dvds, or choose which movie to see in the cinema, but for a review, a trailer or a small synopsis? So it's no surprise that when faced with a flick like 'Repo Men' and the accompanying tag-line (something along the lines of 'Any organ in your body can be replaced. But it can also be repossessed.'), I went into the cinema with raised eyebrows and low expectations. Strangely enough, there's much to enjoy about this full throttle sci-fi thriller.
It's somewhere in the not-too-distant future, and advances in bio-medical science mean that organ donation is a thing of the past, as anything in your body can now be replaced by an artificial version. Facilitated by the rather ominous-sounding 'The Union', the cost is prohibitive, though, and most people choose to get their new organs on credit, with sky-high interest payments to boot.
When you're not able to make these monthly payments that's where Remy (Law) and Jake (Whitaker) come in. The best 'repo men' in the business, these two specialise in retrieval, ie slicing people open and reclaiming The Union's property for their boss (Schreiber).
Things start to go wrong for Remy pretty quickly as an injury while on the job means he wakes up with a new (mechanical) heart. Time starts ticking on his new ticker's repayments, but Remy, identifying with his credit-crunched clients, can no longer consciously do the job he revelled in before. His wife Carol (Van Houten) soon leaves him, and before long he hooks up with Beth (Braga), also on the run with organs long overdue. This futuristic Bonnie and Clyde then set off on their own little crusade against the big bad corporation that is The Union.
From here, right until the end tongue is placed firmly in cheek, 'Repo Men' drops all pretensions of social commentary or tough moral questions about the state of the economy or provision of healthcare. Becoming all the more ludicrous and camp along the way, the results are enjoyable, in a B-movie way. Falling into the 'so bad it's good' category, I kept on asking myself why Jude Law, and especially the usually dependable Forest Whitaker, ended up in such a film. The answer is probably that they were in on the joke right from the start. Cinema doesn't always have to be thought-provoking or nuanced; sometimes it can just be a whole lot of silly fun. Brainless as it is, there are worse films out there that take themselves a lot more seriously.
Little touches do add some nice gloss to the finished product. 'Repo Men' greatly benefits from a quality soundtrack, with lots of retro tunes, and there are some impressive, if not a little gory, scenes of ad hoc surgery, à la 'Nip/Tuck'. Law and Whitaker are also decent, and there is the odd twist along the way. Clocking in at 111 minutes, though, it does drag in places.
Not spectacular, but rising above mediocre - if there was a three-and-a-half star option, I'd be selecting it. A guilty pleasure if ever there was one, 'Repo Men' shows it is possible to make a decent film with even the most preposterous of plots.