The title Repo Men brings Darren Lynn Bousman’s Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008) to mind and indeed the two films share some significant similarities. Both take place in a not too distant future, where organs are sold on credit and repossessed if the patent falls behind on his payments; both boast significantly visceral scenes of gore and grotesque imagery. However while Repo! is commendable for its oddly inventive horror- musical hybridity, Repo Men is a somewhat shallow and average thriller, following the clichéd ‘bad guy gets a taste of his own medicine and turns good guy’ premise.
Jude Law stars as ‘Remy’ – a ruthless repo man who feels no remorse in killing innocent members of the public in order to retrieve the organs they can no longer afford. Alongside his partner ‘Jake’ (Forest Whitaker), the pair seem to enjoy their job, carrying out orders from above instinctively; however, Remy is soon pressured by his wife to move to a safer, ‘cleaner’ department.
On his fateful final assignment Remy is knocked unconscious, only to wake up in the need of a new heart, which he is forced to purchase on credit. Needless to say, this changes Remy’s perspective on life, and he starts feeling sympathy for his targets. This hampers his productivity and he soon falls behind on his credit payments. Predictably, his only alternative is to run, whilst also attempting to save a beautiful bar singer who shares his plight. Meanwhile, his former partner (and childhood buddy) Jake is sent after him to ‘repossess’ his new heart.
The idea of exploring ideas of ‘repossession’ in such an unsettling way, in a time of economic uncertainty when it affects the actual lives of so many people, seems intriguing enough at first; however, the film’s plot quickly falls short of being truly relevant. From the moment Remy wakes after his accident in dire need of a new heart, the premise of the film reveals itself as clichéd and unsophisticated.
Repo Men is not the dark allegory of modern consumer society it perhaps believes itself to be; in reality we are left with yet another take on the already overly-familiar tale of ‘the killer who goes through a change of heart’ (literarily in Remy’s case) and feels the need to atone for his deeds. Remy’s overnight transformation is an unconvincing one, and he never succeeds in becoming truly sympathetic. His youth was apparently ravaged by war, his wife is exaggeratedly hostile, his best friend is a possessive bully – yet none of this really justifies his previous, near-sadistic ruthlessness.
The film’s lack of subtlety is also made evident through Remy’s shallow internal monologues about life, death and Schrödinger’s cat. These ponderings are delivered by Law in a yawn-rousing, flat and passionless tone throughout the film with no purpose whatsoever, except to point to the already painfully obvious.
The film culminates in an unrealistic battle sequence, followed by a rather awkward, intensely gory sex scene and a superfluous plot twist that unsuccessfully attempts to add some much-needed depth to the film. In fact, the only truly noteworthy aspect of Sapochnik’s Repo Men is Liev Schreiber’s turn as ‘Frank’, Remy’s hypocritical and pitiless superintendent, who embellishes his role with the sort of comic relief this increasingly dismal film ultimately lacks. Schreiber’s surprising performance leaves the viewer wondering whether Repo Men wouldn’t have made a much more successful film had it been a comedy.