Starring: Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Alice Braga, Liev Schreiber, Carice van Houten
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Writer(s): Eric Garcia, Garrett Lerner
Cinematography: Enrique Chediak
Original Score: Marco Beltrami
Running Time: 111 Mins.
The sci-fi genre is an odd one, with their films falling into one of two categories, those that seek simply to entertain with all their flash and bang and those that attempt to present the viewer with a message, a deep moral conundrum and something that, the film-makers hope, will really get you thinking. Sadly more often than not these “brainy” sci-fi efforts fall flat on their face failing to deliver, for every success, Blade Runner, Robocop, there are innumerable failures, some even attempt to do both with an even lower success rate and those that do succeed usually go on to be minor classics in their field, Children of Men being the perfect example of a recent success.
As you may have guessed Repo Men tries, and largely fails, to do what Children of Men successfully did, become the thinking mans blockbuster, it is a valiant effort with some great ideas but fails to either capitalise of follow through with any of them. It isn’t without flashes of greatness though and is far from an unbearable experience, the plot is high-concept, a corporation in the near future fits the dying out with new organs at a price, should said customer be unable to pay for their organ the Repo Men (which count Law and Whitaker in their numbers) will promptly recover the organs in usually the most gruesome ways possible.
Sadly what is a rather intriguing premise seemingly leaves the script-writers with no idea of an original or coherent story to construct around it, which means everything that character arcs change at the drop of a hat and everyone is merely a cardboard cut-out hampered with weak material following one-another round not quite knowing what it will lead to next and with no motive, leaving the audience with little empathy for anyone or their actions.
As I said there are flashes of greatness, a final fight scene takes Oldboy as a jumping off point and ramps it up ten-fold while a final twist ending is quite inspired if a little jarring with the rest of the film and despite the weak material Whitaker cannot fail to be watchable as Law’s conflicted partner.
As for Jude Law himself, a one-time hater of the actor I am now much more endeared to him following his turn as Watson in Sherlock Holmes, many have bemoaned Repo Men as a step back for the actor who doesn’t carry favour with many but I would rather see him as confused action man than I would as the smug romantic lead (Alfie etc.), but that’s just me. The fact is I just don’t think he is leading man material and is much better playing second figure to a bigger personality of which Schreiber and Braga just don’t cut it.
First time director Sapochnik does a good job of pointing and shooting the action but something this outlandish needed a little more flair to drive it in one direction, as it is we flirt between gore-fest (putting the Saw films to shame at times!) rough-tough actioner and the more cerebral thriller that the opening voice-over sets the film out as from the off and drops about 30 minutes in, even more of a disappointment given the promise.
I don’t envy the job of whoever had to market Repo Men because it is one messy film that is unlikely to please action fans (not enough) and drops the initial “big ideas” in favour of gore and a totally implausible plot, gut punch of a denouement though!