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"Repo Men" an Organ Groaner

Directed by Miguel Sapochnik
Written by Eric Garcia, Garrett Lerner, based on the novel The Repossession Mambo by Garcia
Starring Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber, Alice Braga, Carice Van Houten, Chandler Canterbury, Joe Pingue, RZA (Robert Fitzgerald Diggs)

Repo Men, right to its remarkably telegraphed ending, follows a map of Brazil as it tries to juxtapose carefree Latin music and arch satire with a Dystopian future where killing people is just bureaucratic business-as-usual. Only where Terry Gilliam's Brazil (1985) made the agents of bureaucracy those of a totalitarian government, this adaptation of Eric Garcia's 2009 paperback novel The Repossession Mambo makes them those of a corporation literally able to get away with murder. The problem is that where Brazil created a world all of a piece to make its points with surreal abandon, Repo Men shifts its tone jarringly from action thriller to cautionary drama to black comedy, while ultimately having nothing to say other than maybe, "Pay your bills."

It's not good when the futuristic super-science of everyday artificial-organ transplantation is the easiest thing with which to suspend disbelief. Screenwriters Garcia and Garrett Lerner and first-time feature director Miguel Sapochnik, a former storyboard artist, present a standard blue-neon Blade Runner city in which salespeople for a megacorporation called The Union sweet-talk terminally ill family men and others to buy organs costing hundreds of thousands of dollars — pooh-poohing rumors "you may have heard on the 6 o'clock news" (as if there were still a 6 o'clock news in the future) about repo men who come and take back your organs if you're 90 days past due. And so, all through the movie, you somehow have several corpses a day littering a single city alone, all with organs removed, and these are just "rumors"? Forget about police — there apparently aren't even any blogs or forum postings wondering why all these dead people keep popping up like mushrooms after a rain. The waiting room at The Union sales office has a steady stream of customers who never notice all this, or know anybody that it happened to?

The lack of logic starts right off, as repo man Remy (Jude Law) talks about having become work-partners with Jake (Forest Whitaker), the kid who used to beat him up in fourth grade in this clearly North American city – even though Remy inexplicably has a British accent as thick as Marmite. Where is this, exactly? Because somehow in this town, everyone, not just rich folks, are buying $600,000 organs — even down-and-out singers and the big, fat, sloppy guy eating a chili dog in the bad part of town.

This isn't just about the ridiculous milieu. It's about a disjointed and unfocused idea, which doesn't seem to be anything more than the bare concept of, "Hey, would happen if corporations got so powerful they could repossess organs?" But a concept is not a movie, and without anything rational to say, it's also not a story.


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