“Repo Men” is a film with an identity crisis. It is part hard-core gore extravaganza, part cerebral “the fates have turned” thriller and all confusion, with too many fallacies for the few working elements to shine.
The bulk of the problems results from a directing style that does not fit the script. The film’s concept is about a man working in the near future as an organ repossessor who must run from his co-workers when he has a change of heart after having one of the artificial organs surgically inserted.
The film could become a commentary on health care, economic turmoil and the psychological study of a man forced to confront the reality he has been benefiting from. The severity of the organ-extraction scenes complements such a harsh conclusion.
But the story becomes bland, since the writers do not push these themes far enough. Nor does director Miguel Sapochnik, who leaves no time for the emotional scenes between main character Remy (Jude Law) and his best friend Jake (Forest Whitaker). Instead, Sapochnik jumps to the next plot point, chase sequence or bloodbath fight scene. The moments of action are well shot, excellently choreographed and violent enough to earn the R rating several times over. Yet these gleefully shallow sequences are at odds with the rest of the story.
Similarly, the music of “Repo Men” suffers from a case of split personality. When the film uses outside artists’ songs, the results are quite innovative. Juxtaposing wedding classic “Pachelbel’s Canon” with an explosion or the simple use of “Dream a Little Dream of Me” in an action film keeps viewers interested. The same cannot be said of Marco Beltrami’s score. When his pieces are played over chase scenes or animalistic fights, the music is boring, sounding like an
unoriginal version of every action thriller ever made.
While the music doesn’t always work, the other sound design certainly does. Sound designer Yann Delpuech creates stomach-churning reality to the extraction scenes and slice-and-dice sounds during fighting to make audience members feel every punch and stab.
It is surprising actors at such caliber as Law, Whitaker and Liev Schreiber are in this uneven of a film. They certainly make the most of what they are given. Law builds on the action training he put to use earlier this year in “Sherlock Holmes,” giving his all in the more physical moments. He and Whitaker have a natural rapport as caring, bickering lifelong friends who end up on either side of the law.
Schreiber is clearly having fun in his role as the branch manager of The Union, a vaguely pan-national government/corporation, when he delivers some perfectly timed lines. But the very skill of the actors is ultimately detrimental for “Repo Men.” They lift up the plot elements of the film that have potential, but by doing this, they expose the weaknesses in the story all the more.
While the film has a good concept, it wavered too much for its own good between complex ideas and lowbrow action. It is a film that is neither intellectual social commentary with a violent, gleeful pulse, nor a glossy action and gore romp with a wink to bigger issues. “Repo Men” tries to do both but succeeds at neither.
“Repo Men” was written by Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner and directed by Miguel Sapochnik.