Jude Law stars in a funny-grim futuristic thriller that isn't nearly funny enough
It’s sad when a bit of grim futuristic silliness like “Repo Men” falls short on all counts, down to the most basic level of entertainment value. A tawdry little tale set in the world of tomorrow, “Repo Men” — directed by newcomer Miguel Sapochnik — details the antics, and the anguish, of Remy (Jude Law), a tattooed, muscle-bound toughie who works for a powerful corporation known ominously as the Union, which sells artificial organs to people who desperately need them. The company charges exorbitant fees for these shiny metal thingamabobs, though its magnanimous figurehead, Frank (Liev Schreiber), reassures clients that they can pay on the installment plan. If they miss too many payments, however, the Union’s “skilled and licensed technicians” — those would include Remy and his partner, Jake (Forest Whitaker) — will show up to reclaim the unit in question.
Very early in the picture we get a sense of just how skilled and licensed these technicians are: First, Remy locates one of these poor deadbeat schmoes, who is then tasered and sliced open with a gleaming stainless-steel blade. After the company’s property is retrieved — which might take a bit of rooting around in the offender’s gooey insides — it’s popped into a baggie, nice as pie, and returned to company headquarters.
Remy knows this isn’t a particularly savory way to make a living, and he’s trying to find a way to transfer into the much tidier sales division: His wife (Carice van Houten, of Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” in a small, thankless role) disapproves of his vocation and wants him to set a better example for the couple’s young son. But after a series of setbacks, Remy finds himself beholden to the Union himself. He also tumbles into an unlikely partnership with a drug-addled torch singer, Beth (Alice Braga), and the two join forces to fight back against, you know, the man.
The first third or so of “Repo Men” is good-natured, albeit in a sick way, and the movie works so hard at having a style that you might be momentarily distracted from the fact that there’s no real story here — at least not one worth following. The script, by Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner (adapted from Garcia’s novel “The Repossession Mambo”), devolves into a ho-hum narrative of deception and betrayal, with a handy surprise twist at the end. If you squint hard enough, “Repo Men” might be read as a treatise on the ruthlessness of the American healthcare system — but that’s a stretch. Mostly, Sapochnik borrows gimmicky editing techniques from movies like “Trainspotting” (he was, incidentally, a member of that movie’s art department) and in general betrays a fanboyish enthusiasm for pictures like “Fight Club” and anything made by Guy Ritchie.
But “Repo Men” isn’t even flashy enough to be engaging: Its action sequences are disjointed and dimly lit. There’s no passion in them — they clank but never dazzle. Sapochnik tosses in some camp touches for fun, scoring one of Remy’s ruthlessly efficient organ-harvesting forays to Rosemary Clooney’s “Sway,” for example. But he doesn’t have the light touch this kind of grisly-funny violence requires. Everything in “Repo Men” feels belabored and overworked, except, perhaps, the performances. Those have been pretty much tossed off: Law squints, scowls and flexes his exceedingly obvious muscles, but he barely seems connected to the story Sapochnik is trying to tell, much less committed to it. And while Schreiber might have made a devilishly slick bad guy, he has so little to do here that his presence barely registers. “Repo Men” could have been a sick little number laced with disreputable thrills. Instead, it’s a self-conscious exercise that keeps advertising its stylishness without actually having any. All of its vital organs are missing in action.
More Related Stories
- Cannes: Directing 101 with James Franco
- Welcome to the jungle: The definitive oral history of '80s metal
- Burt Bacharach opens up on daughter's suicide
- Steven Spielberg to produce "Halo" television series
- Amazon set to launch fine-art gallery
- Twitter torches Dan Brown's "Inferno"
- Brad Pitt keeps breaking his silence on how boring marriage to Jennifer Aniston was
- Lars von Trier's "Nymphomaniac" to use porn star body doubles
- New Beyoncé single leaked
- The sweet, sure to be short-lived "The Goodwin Games"
- Damon Lindelof admits barely-clothed scene in "Star Trek" was "gratuitous"
- Justin Timberlake: I'm a mediocre folk singer!
- Ray Manzarek, founding member of The Doors, dies at 74
- Beware of book blurbs
- Did a Salon excerpt ruin Penn Jillette's chance to win "Celebrity Apprentice"?
- Zach Galifianakis to take formerly homeless woman to "Hangover 3" premiere
- Seth MacFarlane will not host Oscars again
- "SNL's" uncomfortable Garner/Affleck moment
- "Celebrity Apprentice" finale ratings hit a new low
- Worst National Anthem fails
- The truth in Kanye's anti-prison rap
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11