© 2010 Ray Wong
Maybe there should be a law in Hollywood, at least in the studio system, that authors can't adapt their own works into screenplays. Do you want a good reason? Here's Repo Men.
Remy (Jude Law) and Jake (Forest Whitaker) are best buddies since childhood, in a futuristic world where medical advances have deemed organ transplant obsolete. As the world's population grows at an alarming pace and technologies are keeping people alive longer, people resort to expensive artificial organs to extend their lifespans. As adults, Remy and Jake are extremely good at their job, working for the "Union" as Repo Men: their job is to repossess these organs when the clients can't pay.
Lately, though, Remy is having second thoughts about what he does for a living, and his wife, Carol (Carice van Houten) is threatening to leave him and take away his son (Chandler Canterbury) if he doesn't change. Just when Remy is about to finish his last job so he can move to "sales," he gets seriously hurt. Reluctantly, Remy becomes a client with an artificial heart.
After his ordeals, Remy has a problem getting back to his job, and Carol finally leaves him. Jake's disappointed, too, and warns Remy that he will die if he can't work and pay for his heart. When the Union sends Repo Men after Remy to collect, he's on the run just like many of his previous clients. He finds refuge with a fellow runaway, Beth (Alice Braga), as they hide at the "nests." He must find a way to defeat the system and survive.
Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes) tries his best to be an action hero (albeit tragic). He's charming, dashing and agile. He's also a little too withdrawn and wooden, which is a surprise considering how good he was as Dr. Watson. Forest Whitaker (Our Family Wedding) has a secondary role as Jake, who loves his job and the adrenaline rush and can't understand Remy's desire to break up the team. Whitaker is adequate in the role but doesn't really do much -- he's basically repeating his performance in Panic Room.
Alice Braga (I Am Legend) is excellent, however, as Beth, the runaway who eventually becomes Remy's love interest. She's sultry, sexy, and complex. Very strong performance. Liv Schreiber (Wolverine), on the other hand, can play Remy's slimy, creepy, ruthless, soulless corporate boss with his eyes closed. I like Schreiber, but I wonder if he can do something else.
Carice van Houten (Valkyrie) has a brief role as Remy's bitter wife. Her performance is fine considering how shallow her character is -- I have no idea why she gives Remy such grieves; her character simply comes off as a bitch. Chandler Canterbury (Knowing) is perfect as the cute, loving child.
Adapted from his own novel, Eric Garcia (Matchstick Men), together with TV writer Garrett Lerner (House M.D.) concocted a screenplay with an interesting premise but ultimately regurgitated plots. I can just hear the pitch session now: it's Bladerunner meets Six Million Dollar Man meets Minority Report meets Vanilla Sky. If you enjoy any of those movies, you may get a kick out of Repo Men. Still, there's nothing unique or new about this; thus, it's very predictable. The dialogue is clichéd and contrived. The plot is manufactured from a cookie-cutter. The characters are by and large unsympathetic and flat, even though there's a pervasive sadness and resignation throughout the story. The ending is predictable and does not carry much emotional weight.
What is good about the film is the production. Under Miguel Sapochnik's (The Dreamer) direction, the production design has the look and feel of Bladerunner -- dark, gloomy, slick, and futuristic. Still, it feels regurgitated as well. The action is fast and furious, and there's a lot of blood and gore (graphic novel style). There is a scene near the climax that is surprisingly gory and sexy at the same time.
But GCI and production value do not a movie make. At the core, it's about story and characters. The problem with Repo Men is that we've seen this story many times, and without characters with whom we can really identify and sympathize, it's difficult for us to care. I think the Repo Men are going to want their money back on this one.
Stars: Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Alice Braga, Liev Schreiber, Carice van Houten, Chandler Canterbury
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Writers: Eric Garcia, Garrett Lerner (based on Garcia's novel "The Repossession Mambo")
MPAA Rating: R for strong, bloody violence, grisly images, language, nudity, sexuality
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Script – 5
Performance – 7
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 7
Production – 8
Total – 6.5 out of 10