March 25, 2010

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Repo Men (R)
Jude Law is part of a system of seriously predatory lending in Repo Men, a surprisingly not-awful bit of junky futuristic fun.

In some undefined future, the industrialized world has come out of a period of chaos and destruction to be controlled in part by a company called The Union, which, among other things, sells artificial organs to those whose hearts, livers or lungs are failing them or to those who want better eyes, ears, vocal cords or joints. Though some can pay cash, The Union (much like every credit card in your wallet) makes its real money from those who get credit and pay over time. The cost is great and the interest is crushing, so when people fall behind it’s up to repo men like Remy (Jude Law) and his partner Jake (Forest Whitaker) to take back the goods, which in this case means tasering these former customers and cutting the company-owned objects out of them.

Though the job bothers his wife, Remy doesn’t seem to mind the work and is reluctant to talk to his boss Frank (Liev Schreiber) about moving to sales. When she forces this issue with an ultimatum — the job or her and their son — Remy decides to take the pay cut and make the move. But before he can ask for a transfer, Jake eggs him into taking one last job. Remy’s defibrillator malfunctions and he’s given a shock to the heart. When he wakes up, he finds that his own heart has been replaced with one from The Union and now he’s the one left owing.

Because he no longer has the stomach for repo work, Remy soon falls behind on his payments and then it’s run, run, punch, run, quip, fight, repeat. And somewhere in there he takes on fellow fake-organ fugitive Beth (Alice Braga), whose sole purpose is being hot and helping with the “some sexuality/nudity” part of the R rating.

Repo Men is not good, per se, but it is fun. With its half-hearted future setting (this is not where to go if you want imaginative “why”s; this movie is all about neat-looking landscapes and minimal exposition) and its action movie core, Repo Men is all style and neato shootouts. It might be trying to say something about The Way We Live, but I’d prefer to think it isn’t. I’d prefer to think this is just one-dimensional junk meant to give me a cheap thrill. This is a candy bar made with Hershey’s-grade chocolate and unremarkable nougat — nothing to brag to the foodies about here but plenty satisfying when all you want is some sugary escapism.

Accordingly, everybody is very much “fine” here. Jude Law is kind of one-note tortured hooligan. Whitaker tunes his character to either simpleminded or dangerously violent. Schreiber is there when somebody needs to smirk a little snarkiness out of the corner of his mouth and he does the job with just enough charm so you don’t start drawing lines between this and Wolverine and make harsh judgments about the trajectory of his career. Nobody breaks much of a sweat but nobody makes you feel bad for them either. There are worse ways to earn money than acting out silly fight scenes and worse ways to spend 110 minutes than watching them.

I realize after weeks of very mild successes and lots of disappointment I might be grading on a curve, but Repo Men surmounted the low bar of at least being worth its roughly two hours and its matinee ticket price. B-

Rated R for strong bloody violence, grisly images, language and some sexuality/nudity. Directed by Miguel Sapochnik and written by Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner (from the novel The Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia), Repo Men is an hour and 51 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Universal Pictures.