DVD REVIEW Repo Men

A Law unto himself

2010 * 18 * 119 mins * £15.99 * 23 August 2010
Also available on Blu-ray (£19.99)
Distributor: Universal Pictures UK
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Cast: Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber, Alice Braga, Carice Van Outen, John Leguizamo

Dystopian futures are a staple of science fiction cinema, with everything from fascism to the ’80s lust for money pummelled under the satirist’s hammer over the years. Topically, Repo Men has a very different target in its sights: the privatisation of US healthcare. It’s a subject that was mined thoroughly in the little-seen 2008 gem Repo! The Genetic Opera. Sadly the result is that Repo Men already feels a tad old hat – it’s a film in need of a high-concept transplant.

In an unspecified future, medical science has advanced to the point where any organ in your body can be replaced by a bionic ArtifOrg – but at a terrible cost. Fall behind in your payments and Union suit Liev Schreiber sends round the Repos to “reclaim” their property, with anaesthetic only if you’re lucky. Remy (Jude Law) is one particularly unscrupulous Repo, but after a botched job results in a literal change of heart he goes on the lam with Beth (Alice Braga) in tow – herself more machine than woman – and former partner Jake (Forest Whitaker) in deadly pursuit.

Like its part-human protagonists, Repo Men can feel like a patchwork creation: a pinch of RoboCop’s urban decay and jet black social satire here, a dollop of Monty Python there, topped off with one particularly brutal homage to Korean classic Oldboy. It never quite finds its own identity, abandoning any attempt at serious comment early on in favour of ludicrous levels of lopped limbs, cartilage and claret, and the film’s wicked streak runs dry once Remy and Jake find themselves on opposing teams.

It’s played with farcical aplomb by Whitaker and Schreiber, while Law makes a perfectly acceptable broken action hero. Kudos to first-time feature director Sapochnik for making such an ugly future look so appealing, and for cranking up the violence to levels that would make even Chev Chelios wince. Buy into the extreme tone and there’s fun to be had, but thanks to a baggy edit that still feels like the major organs are missing and a derivative finished product, this is unlikely to become the cult hit its near-namesakes – Repo Man and Repo! The Genetic Opera – already are.

Extras:

As well as the “unrated” cut, featuring eight minutes of bonus blood and guts, there’s a lively commentary with the writers and director, around eight minutes of deleted scenes, a short visual effects featurette and all the Union commercials seen in the film. Those opting for Blu-ray also get a U-Control track (including tech specs of the ArtifOrgs), BD-Live content and access to Universal’s neat pocket BLU app, which allows you to use your smartphone as an advanced remote and save content to watch on the go later.

Jordan Farley