Repo Men (2010)
Whatever forces were behind the coincidental alignment of the release of Repo Men with Congress's healthcare reform showdown this past weekend, the timing was perfect. Repo Men is set in a dystopic, post-war near future, but the premise is not so far-fetched that it can't serve as a pointed, gruesome satire of free market, pay-or-die healthcare.
A company called The Union has solved the chronic shortage of organs for transplant by developing an extensive line of artificial organs -- known as artiforgs -- to cure what ails you. Need a new heart? They've got one. And livers, kidneys, eyes, ears, vocal chords and even a brand new neural net in case your brain goes on the fritz. The bad news is that artiforgs aren't cheap. The good news is that The Union has several convenient financing packages. The bad news is that the interest rate is 19.6%, which is still better than some credit cards. The really bad news is that if you fall behind on your payments, The Union will repossess your vital artiforg, which, depending on how badly you need that heart to live, could significantly shorten your lifespan. Enter the repo men. Armed with stun guns, rubber gloves, and scalpels, they efficiently reclaim organs from the imprudent and insolvent.
Remy (Jude Law) is a repo man, and so is his lumbering chum Jake (Forest Whitaker). They both coolly and methodically track down deadbeats and turn them into dead meat. They work in a seedy megalopolis, but when the day is done Remy goes back home to the suburbs, where his wife is none too happy about his job. One night, while working late reclaiming a heart from a musician (RZA), Remy suffers a near-fatal mishap and, wouldn't you know it, the heartless knave wakes up to find a shiny new artiforg heart installed in his chest. He suddenly loses his taste for the repossession business. Irony of ironies, his change of heart has resulted in a change of heart. Punny. And that is the level of subtlety at which Repo Men operates, which is to say, not much.
The kinder (but not gentler) Remy can't do his job, so he's quickly in arrears on that compassionate new heart of his (is compassion a bug, or just an unintended feature?), and on the run with what turns out to be quite a lot of people trying to avoid the repo man. He finds a lady friend, a singer named Beth (Alice Braga) who has several implants she can't pay for, and the two of them try to escape with their hot organs. Things go pretty well until Remy's pal Jake is assigned to retrieve the company's property.
Anyone looking for intelligent debate of substantive issues related to organ transplantation or health insurance reform or universal healthcare should just keep on looking, because Repo Men offers none of the above. That's not to say that, in it's crazy way, Repo Men doesn't make a strong case for universal healthcare *and* universal organ donation. It does. It just does it with lots of guns and gore and very little thinking. Repo Men, directed by Miguel Sapochnik, and written by Garrett Lerner and Eric Garcia (based on Garcia's novel *The Repossession Mambo*) is a sci-fi action thriller slasher movie that's primarily interested in knife fights and splattering blood and gory impromptu surgery. This is a movie with one idea -- it's an interesting idea -- that inspires a whole lot of violence, butchery and bloodshed, with occasional outbursts of humor. The movie lacks a consistent vision of its dystopian future -- it's not so far in the future that the cars look any different, but the cities are *Bladerunner*-style ginormous, with slummy areas filled with squatters, and spacious, nearly empty freeways, and surrounding suburbs that look oddly, ordinarily suburban.
Repo Men is apparently a movie with a very deadpan satirical style that doesn't even bother to wink at the audience. Or maybe it's not meant to be funny, in which case, it actually turns out to be kind of funny, if you can stomach all the stomachs and livers and spleens and such. Liev Schreiber is quite funny as the heartless and humorless CEO of The Union. This is a bullets flying, knives slashing, axes flailing, hacksaws hacking, brain smashing, organ snatching movie that only pauses long enough to linger on the angry red blooming of parting flesh in the wake of a scalpel blade. This is a movie about pain and fear, and lots of it -- the pain and fear of facing death, the pain and fear of financial insolvency, and even the pain and fear of being a medical repo man. Turns out they can have hearts too. As long as they can pay for them.