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Published on March 19th, 2010 | by simeon


Repo Men

by Daniel Mauch

What does it mean to be both alive and dead?

Based on the novel “The Repossession Mambo” by Eric Garcia, Repo Men is a dark sci-fi action film from director Miguel Sapochnik. It is an oddly sadistic film that begins as a fantastic black comedy/drama, loses its way in the second act with well-shot but mindless action and predictable plot elements, yet still finds its way back before the credits roll.
Remy and Jake, played by Jude Law and Forest Whitaker, are both Repo Men for The Union, an alarming combination of loan shark and artificial organ manufacturer. Those unfortunate patients that fall too far behind on their payments have their artificial parts removed and reclaimed, often accompanied by grisly special effects. Through an accident at a routine repossession, Remy ends up needing a new heart. In the process of trying to pay for it, he realizes that he can no longer find the moral ambivalence necessary to take the life of a stranger in order to earn the money to save his own. This film is definitely not for the squeamish, and many scenes were not unlike watching a surgery in progress.

This film will certainly attract more than a nod from those clamoring for universal healthcare in the United States, as well as those railing against corporate greed at the expense of human life. The Union is everything we love to hate in a corporation. Nothing, from duping emotionally compromised patients, to putting profits above all else, to even killing people, is out of bounds for this corporation. It’s uncommon to see corporate evil of this magnitude in a film, and with Liev Schreiber manning the helm, this evil is personified and delivered with such panache that he becomes an enjoyable caricature to watch.

This movie would be nothing without Remy’s path from classic amoral psychopath to redeemed soul, but the journey at times becomes muddy and obscure. Law plays the part somewhat stiffly, but still manages to shine in his interactions with Whitaker and Schreiber. Whitaker, however, is fantastic as Remy’s uncompromisingly unsympathetic partner Jake, who holds on tightly to what he knows and believes, however unprincipled. By the film’s end, Whitaker’s performance as the frustrated partner becomes even more impressive when compared to Law’s movement from perpetrator to victim to agent of retribution.

For years, Remy had no moral compunction against repossessing organs, nearly always from those who will die without them. But when his heart is removed, he suddenly empathizes with the victims of his profession. An odd paradox: that becoming less human can impart more humanity. Remy is both more genuinely alive after receiving his artificial heart, and more certain he will be dead when he can no longer pay. This is the crux of the film, and on this basis a clever story is told about the intersection of making a living, being alive, and the entanglements they create.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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