Movie News & Reviews

'Repo Men': Social commentary drowns in blood

In a future when a bankrupt government has ceded all power to corporations, none is more powerful than The Union.

As companies go, The Union is today's nightmares writ large — a for-profit health-care company that operates like a mortgage or car-loan outfit. It's pitching health, longevity and life itself. The Union makes artificial organs and hustles them: "What's it going to take to put this pancreas in you?"

What happens if you can't pay your note? They send Repo Men, armed with Tasers and portable field-surgery kits — chest spreader included — to cut that metal-and-plastic heart, lung, liver, what have you, out on the spot. Get in arrears, and these heartless hacks will butcher you.

Repo Men is a slasher movie masquerading as social satire, a blood-spattered gorefest about the heartless thugs who do such work, and what happens when one of those thugs (Jude Law) has to get an implant and can't swing the payments.

Remy (Law) and Jake (Forest Whitaker) left the military to become top earners for The Union — cold-blooded killers with little metal ice chests to tote the retrieved organs, callously running up their score the way they used to tally kills in battle or on their favorite video game. Remy's wife (Carice van Houten from Black Book and Valkyrie) wants him out of repo and into sales. She's morally outraged, but apparently only to a point. She wants Remy to become another Frank (Liev Schreiber), an amoral, fast-talking closer whose motto is "We want them buying, not thinking," as he pushes payment plans over paid-in-full "Artif-orgs."

Remy loses his family over the horrors of his job, loses his heart in an accident and goes on the run with legions of "payment past due" organ recipients, among them singer Beth (Alice Braga), whose many transplants suggest a self-destructive lifestyle or a desire to go all-bionic some day. Repo Men morphs into a standard-issue "underground versus murderous tyranny" tale, with bloody fights replacing the stomach-turning surgeries.

Whatever gruesome metaphor for our age this might have been is lost in the arterial spray and shots of scalpels slicing skin. The film borrows from the awful cult film Repo! The Genetic Opera and an infamous Monty Python organ-repossession sketch (shown in one scene) from The Meaning of Life.

Remy narrates our tale as a droll memoirist who wants to write a book that tells "the truth." The narration isn't nearly droll enough, with not a quotable line in it.

This is not a bad cast, but whatever wit was in the script is lost in the queasy details that director Miguel Sapochnik found more fascinating.