Repo Men is based on the novel, The Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia, who also co-wrote the screenplay for Repo Men. It's a science fiction exploration of what the world would be like if medical agencies sold manufactured bio-mechanical organs with a severe repayment scheme - think credit card companies. The Repo Men are the final notice... cold, calculated surgeons who hunt down bad debtors like vermin, extracting their organs for reconditioning and in most cases leaving their customers in a bloody pool wherever they find them.
The premise is fantastic, rivaling movies like Minority Report for its ethical dilemma with a controversial slant on how ruthless corporates will ensure service delivery and profits, governing with fear. When our hero (Law), Remy, an ex-combatant and one of "The Union's" best repo organ guy's suffers a heart failure... he wakes up with a top-of-the-line replacement and an exorbitant debt. He loses interest in the job and when he fails to make payments... the second best organ specialist (Whitaker) is dispatched to hunt him down.
Sounds like a great story - a blend of Crank: High Voltage and Minority Report. However, Repo Men is more comparable with Surrogates, a recent Sci-Fi flick with Bruce Willis or Babylon A.D. with Vin Diesel. The idea is crisp and compelling, the cast is solid, the future visiion even holds up... but the crazy glue doesn't stick without clear direction and a rock solid script.
There's also a sense that Jude Law isn't the best man for the job. There's a reason he's usually a supporting actor and perhaps he's become too typecast and a little too niche for Repo Men. He's toned his physique for the role and is happy to get bloody. So perhaps if we didn't know it was Jude Law, there would be no problem. Yet, it's incredibly difficult to mistake the pretty boy with the English accent and some would probably be surprised to hear he did his own stunts let alone throw a ball.
Law lays down the law as a repo man with Forest Whitaker as his partner and childhood friend. Whitaker has been in a series of indie type crime dramas since he won an Oscar for The Last King of Scotland and hasn't really been the same since he received the golden statuette. Perhaps it's just a reflection on how amazing that performance was, or maybe he's done a Cuba Gooding, Jr on us. Liev Schreiber plays a fairly innocuous "Union" executive part in Repo Men, but his star presence boosts the film's credibility with up-and-coming City of God actress, Alice Braga substituting for your typical big name actress.
What starts as a philosophical mystery quickly turns into an action-thriller and commentary on dehumanisation and job satisfaction with enough gore to parallel the Saw series. Clipping heart valves, guiding blades over flesh... the film-makers have made this Universal Studios film seem like it was independently funded. The performances are very ordinary, diminished in part by a fairly young and inexperienced director, Miguel Sapochnik and also from a lack-lustre novel-to-script adaptation. The atmosphere is believable enough with the classic protector-innocent couple on the run, but it's like there isn't enough material to keep the audience going for the 111 minute runtime.
The story is going through the motions with one or two flashes of brilliance, instead of demonstrating insight. An unconventional "love" scene, a thought-provoking twist and some decent action go a long way to redeeming Repo Men in the last quarter as the crew get it together, but it's too little, too late. Sapochnik's storytelling needs a better flow and starting with Schrodinger's cat paradox is pretentious and not in keeping with the tone of the rest of the film. Repo Men could just have easily been a dark future comedy with the same cast and it's a pity they didn't add some light comic moments to relieve the consistent blood spatter.
It may not be the best science fiction action-thriller out there, but it does have one or two moments that make it bearable or interesting at least. Rent it on DVD if you enjoyed Surrogates and Babylon A.D. and you won't be disappointed. The film isn't as grandiose as it seems to think it is and it's just a pity that the sum total of its parts don't add up to what it could have been. Under a different director and with some sharper writing, this could have been brilliant... so take it as it is with a pinch of salt and there's a chance you'll enjoy it.
The bottom line: Iffy.