President Obama and the Democrats finally managed to squeak through a health care reform bill that promises to insure millions of Americans and eliminate many of the more deplorable practices of the exploitative insurance industry. Whether or not you feel the exact parameters of the bill will effectively remedy the current health care crisis largely depends on your political affiliation. But what’s generally agreed upon by reasonable people is that doing nothing would have led to exponentially skyrocketing premiums and further abuses by the already too powerful insurance industry. Miguel Sapochnik’s “Repo Men” explores the implications of allowing this to happen and follows that premise to its logical conclusion — using movie logic, of course.
Remy (Jude Law) and Jake (Forest Whitaker) are co-workers in the not-too-distant future where organ replacement has been privatized and spurned into a multi-million dollar industry. Virtually every organ of the human body has a high-tech, more reliable artificial counterpart hawked to desperate, terminally ill patients for exorbitant amounts of cash by an ominous organization called The Union. If you can’t pay back the $300,000 for that new kidney you were guilted into buying you’ll soon have guys like Remy and Jake knocking at your door with the intention of taking it back like it was a piece of furniture. Yes, that’s right, these futuristic repomen will perform messy, impromptu, non-sterile surgery right on your kitchen floor to get back that heart you can’t pay for. If you die, too bad. You should have made your payments. Sound familiar?
Now, “Repo Men” should not be confused with a successful, scathing social commentary in the context of a polished, well-written, new science-fiction classic. The dialogue is horrific, the romance between Remy and the vagrant Beth (Alice Braga) is completely contrived and empty and the absurdity of the film’s plot points are enough to make Uwe Boll blush. But there is something strangely charming about watching Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker and twice Oscar-nominated Jude Law running around like a couple of elite government assassins in the year 2025 just to murder some poor unsuspecting schmuck for being a few days late on his payments for an artificial pancreas.
That charm, combined with an utterly unnecessary but oddly delightful plot twist near the end, may be enough to put this film over the edge — in a good way. Sapochnik stirs together unbelievable absurdity with some seriously gratuitous violence to create a strange amalgam of pseudo-sci-fi, B-movie sensibilities, timely social commentary and Terry Gilliam-esque mind-bending.
You could certainly do without seeing “Repo Men,” but even the most sophisticated film enthusiasts deserve to indulge every now and then.