Sunday, July 11, 2010

Repo Men

You're Repossessed!

It's not always that we get a film that's smart and works on multiple levels, but Repo Men to my surprise, is one such film despite being billed as a science fiction action thriller, with the promise of plenty of explosion and gory surgical scenes about a group of hired men going out there to reclaim synthetic body parts from those who have fallen short on their installments. The premise has so much running in parallel to the real world financial plight of worthless bonds and the trappings exploiting the greed and desperation of men, that it just lifts the film beyond its basic premise and sets you thinking.

Corporations and banks exist to make a profit, and that is its basis of their existence. To have somebody pay you in full means an opportunity to make more money gone from the loss of interest that can potentially be earned, so installments are the way to go. Being no saints, more money will start to come in should there be a default in the repayment scheme, and in the best case scenario they get to seize whatever is yet to be paid in full, and liquidate it. Not a bad way to make money actually, provided nobody thinks about the social consequences, adopting a job is a job attitude, with zero personal attachments.

But of course before hitting dire straits, you'll be convinced that you're given the best possible help to finance the loans and installment repayment through well meaning assistance rendered to help craft a reasonable, sustainable repayment plan, but this is just the hook, line and sinker for the unsuspecting victim to swallow. Hiding away the consequences in minute details never to be discussed also helps to make the case. In the film, the company known as The Union is in the healthcare industry, having to perfect the mass production of synthetic body parts for just about every part of your body. A failing organ is no longer route one to death, and through slick sales talk and snazzy corporate image, those desperate to extend their lives become easily convinced that the exorbitant price for a replacement part is the way to go.

The fine print though reads that a default in payment beyond 90 days means The Union (the shady corporation in question here) will send their reposession team after you to reclaim the part. And yes, if it's something crucial for survival, that's just tough luck because like banks, they don't really care if they have to throw you out on the streets. It's purely business and nothing personal, though in this case it involves life and death.

Jude Law plays Remy, one of the best of the best in the business as an employee of The Union in its Repo department, perfecting his skills of breaking and entering, fights, and generally overpowering and immobilizing his victim long enough for him to exercise his surgical skills. He has no remorse to do what he's doing as a career, although his long and irregular hours is taking a toil on his family life, with wife Carol (Carice van Houten from Valkyrie and Black Book) giving him that ultimatum to do a sales job, just like what his boss Frank (Liev Schreiber) has made it his calling to convince those who are sick to sign on with the company's scheme to provide medical and financial assistance.

Law has now starred in two of what I personally deem as some of the best science fiction stories Hollywood has done, this and Gattaca which coincidentally also deals with genetics and such. His turn in Steven Spielberg's Artifical Intelligence is something forgettable, and amongst the three I prefer his role here best, since it offers him a wide range of emotions to showcase, plus to balance that off with some hard hitting action, which was missed in Gattaca since his character in that film was wheelchair bound, though no lacking in emotional intensity.

Repo Men primarily follows Remy's story arc, where we see a transformation in a man in his attitude and conscience once he's made to belong to the other side, not by choice. After all, why bat for a losing team? An accident during work meant that The Union feels obliged to save one of their own, after all he's the best, though with no worker benefits, meaning that Remy too is subjected to the same terms and conditions as those whom he hunts down. It's a tale of losing a physical heart to gain a compassionate one, and he soon finds himself dangerously close to not bringing home the bacon because of his natural affiliation, that his defaulting of payments meant his best friend and buddy in the business, Jake (played by Forest Whitaker) has to systematically hunt him down.

Filled with plenty of violence without remorse, gore, and what I thought was gore-porn with that state of sensualness and extreme pain experienced by both Remy and his new squeeze Beth (Alice Braga) in a scene that will really raise some eyebrows as they go to the extreme in wanting their freedom back, there are plenty of action sequences here that will thrill that action fanboy in you. And if you think V for Vendetta's fight scene at the end with V utilizing his knife to dispatch opponents was one of a kind, well, you ain't see nothing yet with a similar sequence here executed by Remy, which I think is the best amongst all the other fights crafted for the movie, hands down, made all the more sweet when set against UNKLE's Burn My Shadow song. This scene alone will make you sit up and take notice that Jude Law can be that drama king turned action hero too.

And let's not forget the other supporting cast that equally boosted the film through their fine delivery. Forest Whitaker shedded a lot of weight for his role here to act as that counter-balance to Jude Law, and carries the film with his witty one liners (that seemed to be ad-libbed) and comical demeanour, though he's no pushover when it comes to the crunch. Alice Braga continues to be a comfortable casting choice in action films (just as she was in the recent Predators) and her romantic subplot with Remy grows to culminate in that unbelievable scene I mentioned before. I think we got to keep our eyes peeled if filmmakers see her as the new Linda Hamilton able to take on more masculine roles in future, because I think she has what it takes to deliver such tough-as-nails roles quite effortlessly.

Unlike the schmuck in the show who will pitch that you owe it your family, I'd just say you owe it to yourself to catch this science-fiction action thriller for adults with a great story backed by unflinching, violent action, with enough twists and turns to surprise you. With certainty Repo Men enters my shortlist as one of the best the genre has to offer, and is this year's equivalent of Children of Men! Highly recommended!

You Owe It To Yourself, Really

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