Frustrated punk rocker Otto quits his supermarket job after slugging a co-worker, and is later dumped by his girlfriend at a party. Wandering the streets in frustration, he is recruited in the repossession of a car by a repo agent. After discovering his parents have donated his college fund to a televangelist, he joins the repossession agency (Helping Hand Acceptance Corporation) as an apprentice "repo man". During his training, he is introduced into the mercenary and paranoid world of the drivers, befriended by a UFO conspiracy theorist, confronted by rival repo agents, discovers some of his one-time friends have turned to a life of crime, is lectured to near cosmic unconsciousness by the repo agency grounds worker, and finds himself entangled in a web of intrigue concerning a huge repossession bounty on a 1964 Chevy Malibu driven by a lunatic government scientist, with Top Secret cargo in the trunk. Written by
One for the first of the crapped-on generations...
Those who were unlucky enough to reach adulthood during the 1980s or 1990s will relate most to this film. Like all the best films, it sets no specific genre for itself, instead preferring to tell a story and leaving the audience to respond in its own way. Many don't get this film as a result, and a lot of the sight gags require an understanding of 1980s commercialism. The reward for getting it, on the other hand, is one of the trippiest films ever committed to celluloid.
Director Alex Cox uses his connections to, or perhaps that should be knowledge of, the American punk scene to full effect here. The soundtrack is unlike anything heard in films of the same period, with numerous standout tunes that demand just as much attention as the on screen action. With lyrical snatches like "let's all leech off the state, gee, money's really great!", every moment in the film, musical or otherwise, is a commentary on the plight of Otto's generation, and generations since.
Aside from the cameos from numerous musicians that you can connect to more famous figures in a Kevin Bacon sort of manner (Chuck Biscuits would later drum for Danzig), the film is very well-known for containing some figures who were either famous at the time, or would become famous in subsequent years. The obvious example is Emilio Estevez, but cast members like Harry Dean Stanton or Sy Richardson will also give off a spark of recognition. A lot of the film becomes a game of "where have I seen that guy before?". Not only that, but at least half of the lines are inherently quotable.
If there is one flaw in the film, I can't think of it. The rain of ice cubes is a bit poorly realised, but that just adds to the film's effect. One notable writer has been quoted as saying "learn to see the worst films, sometimes they are sublime". Repo Man is sublime, but is also one of the best, for a number of reasons. Instead of using the money hose to wash away its creative problems, it revels in its inherent stupidity or weirdness. Where else can you see a woman with a robotic hand made out of tinfoil, and actors working so well around it?
In all, I gave Repo Man a 10 out of 10. If you're into weirdness, this is the Holy Grail. Those who enjoyed films like This Is Spinal Tap or Rebel High, ponder no further - get this film on DVD-Video *now*.
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