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Repossessing the silver screen In Focus by Richard Crouse FOR METRO CANADA March 19, 2010

Repo Man (Alex Cox, 1984)Nobody likes repo men. Repossession agents are dream-killers who prey on people who fail to make payments or default on loans, but, sadly, in these times of economic hardship business is booming. There are even repo recruitment websites—you don’t need a formal education, they say, but a “certain level of detective skill” is considered a bonus.

But it’s not just in the real world that recovery professionals are in a growth industry. On screen repo representatives are also making a comeback. In this weekend’s Repo Men, Jude Law and Forest Whitaker play gents who specialize in reclaiming artificial organs from deadbeats who fall behind on the payments, and doing the festival circuit is Repo Chick, the sister film to Alex Cox’s much loved 1984 cult hit, Repo Man.

“The life of a repo man is always intense,” says Repo Man actor Tracey Walter. So is the movie. Roger Ebert described it as “…a little weirdo fun. It is the first movie I know about that combines (1) punk teenagers, (2) automobile repossessors, and (3) aliens from outer space.” A few years ago, a group of Los Angeles Times writers deemed the strange story the eighth best film set in Los Angeles in the last 25 years, and its odd mix of punk rock ethos and droll humor has also inspired several other artists. Terry Pratchett’s novel, Reaper Man is named in tribute and a graphic novel called Waldo’s Hawaiian Holiday is a semi-sequel to the film.

The official sequel, Repo Chick directed by Cox, is awaiting release. It sees the original premise expanded to include not only cars but “boats, houses, aeroplanes, small nations… children.” Variety said its “wacky blend of leftist, anti-establishment politics, eye-searing colors, outre costumes and manic overacting… could be likened to what you would get if Michael Moore directed an episode of the Nick Jr. kiddie series, Lazy Town.”

And finally, a little more straightforward than Repo Man’s dark social satire, or Paris Hilton’s unhinged Repo! The Genetic Opera, is Repo Jake, a dirty little B-movie about a hot rod driver (Dan Grizzly Adams Haggerty) who becomes a retrieval specialist in the hopes of living a quiet life. His plans go awry when he repossesses a vicious crime lord’s car. About the best thing that can be said about this stinker is that the DVD comes with “high fidelity sound.”

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