In his review of the film, Roger Ebert wondered whether Repo Men was intended to play as a dark comedy or as a straight action picture. I've never met the filmmakers, so I can only guess as to their intent. My prognosis? Sure, some of it is meant to come off as darkly comic, and it sometimes succeeds. Most of the first 20 minutes or so are devoted to slick and splashy scenes with Jude Law having a blast as he rips vital organs out of people's bodies. It's what he does for a living; he's an organ Repo Man for The Union, one of those giant, evil corporations that sci-fi flicks like this have taught us to hate and fear.
Those early repo scenes, with Law and Forrest Whitaker rock n' rolling their way from one bloody gruesome job to another, are a lot of fun. Whitaker, as usual, elevates the material with his smooth performance as a deputized serial killer. And Law doesn't fall too far behind with his own manic gesturing and gleefully malevolent grins. It's pretty hilarious. The picture gets that sense of fun back in spots later when it becomes an action-packed chase movie, but there's a bit in the middle that stops the movie in its tracks like a ... well ... like a heart attack. [Spoilers below ...]
After showing us how much fun opening people's insides up and yanking out their guts can be, Repo Men takes a stab at becoming a morality tale/social critique. After a freak accident that we know isn't a freak accident, Law gets an unwanted organ transplant that also happens to come with an unwanted conscience. He begins to feel sorry for the people who fall behind on payments for their ridiculously overpriced artificial organs and get carved up and left for dead (A sloppy allusion to the recent mortgage crisis?). He becomes a mess of flop sweat and is unable to work. No work means no paychecks, and no paychecks means no payments to the Union, who will stop at nothing to repossess their artificial heart.
That's the bit that stops the movie cold. The moralizing feels forced and it throws the movie's tone and pacing way off. There's some brainless fun to be had in later scenes with Law and Alice Braga teaming up to take on the big bad Union, but the movie never truly recovers from that early tonal shift. And then it shifts tone about a hundred more times and morphs into a dozen different movies --- it's a chase movie, a rote action picture, a parody of a rote action picture, torture porn, a torture porn parody, a pitch black comedy, a character drama, a post-apocalyptic thriller, a winking social critique ... you get the idea.
And the ending. Yikes! The movie finally settles into a dumb but entertaining groove in the final act only to leave us with an ultimately disappointing conclusion that would probably inspire most discerning viewers to chuck the DVD out the window. So after all that (all that!), Jude Law ends up in The Matrix? Yeah, I guess I saw it coming about 15 minutes into the thing with the first reference to the "M5" tech, but I was hoping the filmmakers would surprise me. Sadly, they didn't. The ending was frustrating and not clever or provocative or whatever director Miguel Sapochnik and his screenwriters (Eric Garcia and Garret Lerner) were shooting for.
Repo Men is fun in bits, but it's about 45 minutes too long, and it suffers from an overdose of bad calls, poor pacing, and schizophrenic plotting. I love the movie's premise and the idea that, in the future, people pay the ultimate price for living beyond their means. But you need a lot more than a good premise and and some intriguing themes/ideas to make a good movie.
Whattayasay, folks? Did anyone out there enjoy Repo Men as a whole? The movie is based on a novel, Repossession Mambo, written by Garcia. Has anyone read the book? Is it better than the movie? Let's hear your thoughts.