The idea of a company repossessing human organs like a bank repossesses a house is a horrifying, futuristic vision. It’s also highly unique… so much so, that the similar storyline found in 2008’s Repo! The Genetic Opera begs the question as to where the 2010 science-fiction film Repo Men got its start. This new look into loaning vital body parts at a deadly price is based on the book The Repossession Mambo, originally published in 2009 and re-released under the matching “Repo Men” title to coincide with the theatrical adaptation. Who copied who is still a heated debate. Although the idea is thought-provoking, the film tries too hard to be singular and different, resulting in a moderately fun yet cheesy experiment in the unexpected. Unfortunately, while it attempts to create new imagery, it also borrows heavily from other existing works.
In the future, after the U.S. government declares bankruptcy, a wealthy credit company called The Union steps in to save lives by financing artificial organs (instead of calling them A.O.’s, they’re dubbed “artiforgs”) to those in need. Waiting on a list for transplants becomes obsolete, and just about every body part can be replaced. The fine print, however, allows for the repossession of the item should payments not be made on time. And with a very hefty price tag, a large percentage of clients receive visits from Repo Men who break into houses or plot traps (not unlike a process server) to take back The Union’s merchandise – with a scalpel, knives, a stungun and no anesthesia. At least there’s a complaints department.
“If you can’t pay for your liver, well, that’s where I come in.” Remy (Jude Law) is one of the best repo technicians around, swiftly, uncaringly and nonchalantly collecting organs from random people who can’t foot the bill. He waits in their homes or ambushes “nests” of runners in hideouts and mercilessly cuts them apart, reclaiming a liver, pancreas, heart or other organ, all while casually listening to his iPod. “A job’s a job” is the motto that he frequently opines, as he and his longtime friend and coworker Jake (Forest Whitaker) compete in repossessions. Remy’s disapproving wife Carol (Carice van Houten) isn’t quite so indifferent. His real troubles begin during a routine assignment when a faulty shock unit sends him to the emergency room. He awakens to discover that one of The Union’s newest models of artificial hearts has replaced his own. Even after he recovers, he can’t shake the newfound feeling of sympathy for runners, and when his own fees get overbearing, he realizes he’s become one of the very people he routinely kills… and now he must flee, along with a woman (Alice Braga) who essentially has no original body parts save for her lips.
The target audience for Repo Men seems to be those that enjoy broad, light-hearted, action-filled science-fiction in the vein of Total Recall or The Matrix. But in its attempt to be daringly original, it bleeds over into the likes of darker material, such as Children of Men, 1984 and even Brazil, which could turn off many viewers. The extreme gore is done in a hilarious manner, fueled by exciting music that continually contrasts with the evil deeds or bloodthirsty revenge at hand (the most notable of which occurs in a climactic, splendidly choreographed battle, clearly influenced by Old Boy’s hammer fight) in a dance of blood-splattering mutilation and autopsy that perfectly captures the idea of a “repossession mambo.” Perhaps the largest fault with the whole idea is the lack of other supporting futuristic devices. In order to believe that organ repossession could take place in Repo Men’s bleak future, shouldn’t the terrain be slightly more innovative than a present-day environment with a couple of not-so-cutting-edge weapons thrown in? Where are all the other advancements in technology?
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)