CATEGORIES Hot Topic
With the health care debate sill raging on Capitol Hill, this week a not-so-small, not-so-independent, not-so-subtle film called 'Repo Men' hits theaters. What may seem like a mishmash, part 'Blade Runner,' part 'Hostel' and mostly 'Minority Report,' it actually has more in common with Michael Moore's 'Sicko' than any of three aforementioned films.

Jude Law and Forest Whitaker play Remy and Jake -- glorified collection agents; glorified because they have the authority to use brute force when repossessing internal organs that are purchased at astronomically high prices and interest rates. They don't necessarily have a Majesty's Secret Service-style license to kill, per se -- even though they are "legally obligated to offer an ambulance" to their debt-ridden victims, the end result never changes. Repossession, in this case, equals death. With the health care debate sill raging on Capitol Hill, this week a not-so-small, not-so-independent, not-so-subtle film called 'Repo Men' hits theaters. What may seem like a mishmash, part 'Blade Runner,' part 'Hostel' and mostly 'Minority Report,' it actually has more in common with Michael Moore's 'Sicko' than any of three aforementioned films.

Jude Law and Forest Whitaker play Remy and Jake -- glorified collection agents; glorified because they have the authority to use brute force when repossessing internal organs that are purchased at astronomically high prices and interest rates. They don't necessarily have a Majesty's Secret Service-style license to kill, per se -- even though they are "legally obligated to offer an ambulance" to their debt-ridden victims, the end result never changes. Repossession, in this case, equals death.

Reality is a far cry from the world we see in 'Repo Men.' Human organ trafficking is, of course, quite illegal. And the technology for the artificial organs depicted in 'Repo Men' is far off from being a reality. Though, for people without health insurance, treatment certainly isn't illegal; it's there for anyone who can afford it -- just like the organs in 'Repo Men.' In today's reality, people without health insurance (and some with) are subjected to collection agencies that can ruin a credit score or force one into bankruptcy. A worse-case scenario is the denial of some complicated treatments for individuals. No one, in our reality, is going to be knocking at a patient's door and repossessing his liver.


Liev Schreiber plays Frank, a character in middle management who, at one point, laments the fact that a client has paid his bill in full, declaring the only way that the company makes money is off the interest rates. The undertones of 'Repo Men' were not lost on Schreiber, as he told Moviefone, "To ask the question of what happens when health care continues to be unchecked, privatized and for profit as an industry, this sort of outrageous premise this film presents -- you realize it isn't that far from the truth."

What if artificial organ technology advances? What if health care becomes completely privatized without government intervention? Would companies sell artificial organs for a profit, using tactics usually reserved for used car sales? Trapping people into high interest rate loans that they cant possibly pay off. We know how a home or a farm (thank you John Mellencamp's 'Rain on the Scarecrow') is repossessed. How does one go about repossessing an essential organ without the loss of life?

The film's current social message is a future Forest Whitaker can envision, "You lose your home, you lose everything, then what do you have? You have yourself. Well then, now what? Can we take back that?"

Two things are striking about this film. The first is the lack of really any mention of actual health insurance. The poor souls shopping at Frank's organ franchise either don't have it or are not covered by it. Duped into signing their life away (literally) because, as Frank contends, "You owe it to your family." Remy (Law) is not quite as skilled in his short and temporary role in sales, often admitting in full gory detail the fate that awaits a delinquent customer. Which segues into the second point: The stylized gore throughout the film. This is certainly not a film for the squeamish. The repo men enter homes and basically announce to the delinquent transplant recipient that he has just been given an immediate death sentence for not paying his bill. It's not pretty. It's not reality. Though, as this debate continues, it's something to consider.