In order to fully enjoy Repo Men, you need to realize that thinking too deeply about it is not a good idea. Realize this early on, because otherwise you’ll have a difficult time sitting through the almost two hours of film that you’ll be subjected to. If you can do this, and just take it for the silly film that it is, it can actually be quite the fun ride.
The plot of Repo Men sets up as follows: Remy (Jude Law) is a repo man. His employer is simply called “The Union”. What does he have to repossess? Not cars and not houses, I can tell you that much. Organs are like diamonds in this future society — fake organs, that is — and these are the things he has to take back. But only if the person with the fake organ gets 3 months late in their payment; The Union consists of nice people, after all.
When attempting to repossess an organ from a man, some equipment malfunctions and he winds up in hospital. He’s been given a fake heart, one that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Apparently his company won’t pay for such things, despite the fact that he was hurt on the job, and they make the organs. Remy initially doesn’t want this, knowing what could happen if he fails to pay, but ends up giving in when he realizes there’s no other way for him to stay alive.
Having an artificial heart awakens something that Remy seemed to have been missing through the first act: A conscience. He attempts to get back to his job, but can’t do it because he now feels empathy for the people he is forced to retrieve the organs from. His partner and best friend Jake (Forest Whitaker) attempts to get him out of this state of mind, but he fails. Remy is now closer to being a real human than he ever has, and decides to leave the company and begin to fight back against them.
Jude Law, or at least, his character, doesn’t seem to have much emotional range regardless of when you see him — pre or post operation. Whether this be a fault in Law’s portrayal or the way his character is written, we will probably never know. What it does is make us fail to believe he really cares about the others with overdue organs, meaning it’s hard to get behind him for the majority of the film. He physically looks the part of an action hero though, which comes into play when he is slicing through hordes of corporate drones in a hallway fight scene that lasts way too long.
That scene in particular is one of the most obvious parts of the film where you will take a step back and realize the obvious inspiration. In that particular case, Oldboy is the film that Repo Men wants to be. In other cases, well, it would be spoiling to say, but let’s just say that the ending directly steals — or “pays homage” — to one of the more influential science fiction films ever made. The ending is also one of the best parts of the film, shocking me enough to make me question how closely I had been paying attention. It’s definitely something to throw you for a loop, but it’s an unnecessary twist regardless of how interesting it is to watch it develop.
There are two main points of the film. Number one is that large corporations are evil and they don’t care about the individual. Liev Schreiber plays Frank, the man who employs Remy, and he is as ruthless as The Union is portrayed. There is no humor in his character, which is a shame. If he had laughed once, that would have been a nice touch. The second point is that universal health care is a wonderful thing. Since it was filmed in Canada, it’s kind of weird to have such a privatized world featured, but I guess you can do anything with technology nowadays.
For the events of Repo Men to actually take place, the government would really have to disappear. I don’t see this happening, although a world in which it’s legal for someone to break into your home, cut you open, remove an organ and then leave you there to die is a scary place to picture. Even scarier is the fact that you can be given an artificial organ while unconscious, awaken, and then find yourself with a $700,000 debt on your hands. I can certainly see why Remy would want to fight back.
If Repo Men wasn’t as derivative as it is, or if its story actually mattered by the end, it would have been a very fun and interesting movie. As it is, it’s fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously or think too deeply about it. Doing that ruins all of the fun that it does present, and will also make you feel like you wasted a lot of your time. The ending will feel like it comes out of nowhere, and at least you can discuss whether or not you liked that after the film ends. I enjoyed myself for most of the time, but it isn’t a film that I’d want to go back to any time soon.