Like last year’s “Repo: The Genetic Opera,” this weekend’s “Repo Men” is set in a dystopian world where health care is a corporate game. Unlike the opera, which starred Paris Hilton and featured a noise-rock soundtrack, this one stars Jude Law and Forest Whittaker as two violent organ repossession agents who kill their clients to complete their jobs. That is, until one of them literally has a change of heart.
Set in the near future (in a city that looks very much like Toronto on steroids) “Repo Men” centers on two weapons grade repo men, Remy and Jake, played by Law and Whittaker. They work for The Union, a multinational health care provider who sell artificial organs—everything from hearts and lungs to esophagi—to terminally ill people who are usually unable to pay in full. That’s just fine by The Union, because, according to their unctuous head salesman Frank (Liev Schreiber), they don’t make any money when people pay in full. Their motto of “a job is a job” regardless of the consequences takes a hit when Remy gets a new pumper, a new attitude and falls behind in his payments.
Originally titled “The Repossession Mambo,” after a novel of the same name, I’m sure “Repo Men” was meant to be a timely comment on health care in a world where corporations place profit above human lives. It’s a timely message, and one that might have been explored a bit more in a better movie, or at least a movie that wasn’t content to replace content with blood and guts. The film is either a.) really gross or b.) marvelously bloody depending on your point of view.
There are several squirm inducing repossession scenes involving open wounds and a shootout in an all white room that leads up to a sequence that can only be called “squirty,” is startling. All that brings us to a spectacularly yucky repossession climax and a cool twist (ed) ending.
Law and Whittaker are odd choices to headline an action movie. Despite some good moves—Whittaker is a martial artist and Law has clearly been visiting the gym—neither feel like action stars on the screen. Liev Schreiber, seen here as a heartless pencil pusher, might have been a better choice in the action department, but shines anyway as the slimiest salesman ever.
“Repo Men” has a campy sense of humor to it, some wild action sequences, a cool looking vision of the future, and an unforgettable final repossession / sex scene, but ultimately fails because it can’t make up its mind whether it is satire, black comedy or serious look at the failings of health care.