Repo Man (1984)
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What Alex Cox delivers here is a timeless classic that has seemingly influenced a lot of my favourite films to date, and of course was influenced itself by other personal favourites. So not only was it natural for me to love 'Repo Man', but it won me over on its own rights with its wonderfully satirical tone and hilarious yet interesting dystopian science fiction themes.
Although incredibly annoying at first, the film's characters eventually won me over and by the end of the film I had learned to love every one of them. This was thanks to the effective and focused characterisation dealt with by Cox, allowing his characters to grow from being dislikable idiots to harmless jesters. Indeed if it wasn't for the characters, 'Repo Man' wouldn't be as funny as it is and it wouldn't even be as interesting. In key with the writing, the cast also do a great job with the handling of their characters, all turning in solid and memorable performances.
If there is one complaint I have it is that the pacing sometimes goes a little out of balance and leads to the story to getting caught up in trivial scenes that either should have been cut or been made more progressive to the plot. Nevertheless, I absolutely loved this film (especially that brilliant ending!) and recommend it to fans of science fiction comedy or satires. Granted not everyone will enjoy at as much as I did, but it certainly deserves a watch.
Alex Cox, the innovative director of "Repo Man", made a film that mixes a lot of movie genres with a satisfying result. That's why when it was discovered, it became a huge cult movie. It was one of the films that had midnight screenings for its many fans that flocked to have a great time and who identified themselves with the movie.
The best thing in the film is the interaction between Bud and Otto. Harry Dean Stanton has always play cool parts and this movie is no exception. Emilio Estevez gave, what might be, his best movie performance as the young punk that gets to meet a world he never knew existed. All the players gave their best to Mr. Cox and the result is a film that, in some ways, might baffle at first, but once the viewer gets into it, he will be hooked.
Iggy Pop's music is an excellent partner for the action. Alex Cox is an innovative director, as he proves with "Repo Man".
Emilio Estevez stars as Otto Maddox, a head-strong and slightly naive ex-supermarket stock clerk and sometime punk rocker. He's kicking a can down the street when up pulls Bud, "a repo man," played with a fine degeneracy by Harry Dean Stanton, who asks him if he wants to make ten bucks. (Otto's reply is memorable but not printable here.) When he learns that Bud just wants him to drive a car and not...uh, never mind, he bargains it to twenty-five bucks. When he finds out that Bud repossesses cars for the "Helping Hand Acceptance Corporation," he is sorely offended. But when he realizes how intense the life is (and how bleak his other employment opportunities), he becomes a repo man himself.
Meanwhile there's J. Frank Parnell (Fox Harris wearing a demonic grin and weird black and empty frame glasses) driving a "hot" '64 Chevy Malibu. "You don't want to look in the trunk, Officer," he tells a cop who pulls him over on a desert highway. By the way, the map under the opening credits shows the action of this film beginning somewhere on old Route 66 in New Mexico, suggesting alien mecca Roswell territory perhaps, but most of scenes were clearly shot in LA, and the desert scene just mentioned was also probably shot in California as evidenced by the Joshua Trees in the background.
What director and scriptster Alex Cox does is combine urban ghetto realism with bizarro sci-fi shtick. He adds a fine punk soundtrack including the title song from Iggy Pop with a brief appearance by the Circle Jerks, and wow are they appropriate, but you have be a punker or a 15-year-old to really visualize their moniker. The supporting players, Sy Richardson as Lite, a black cat repo ace, and Tracey Walter as Miller, a demented street philosopher, really stand out. I also liked the black girl repo person with attitude (Vonetta McGee).
The real strength of the movie, aside from probably the best performance of Estevez's career, is in the street scene hijinks, the funny and raunchy dialogue, and all those sight gags. My favorite scene has Otto coming home to find his parents smoking weed on the couch zombie-like in front of the TV listening to a Christian evangelist while he scarfs down "Food" out of a blue and white can from the refrigerator. I mean "Food" is on the label, period. The Ralphs plain wrap (remember them) are all over the sets, in the convenience store, at the supermarket, bottles of plain wrap whiskey and plain wrap "Tasteetos," plain wrap beer and plain wrap cigarettes.
Some other good shtick: the dead rat thrown in the car with the woman that doesn't accomplish its purpose; the money in the presents that Otto throws out the window busted open by the tires of another car for us to see and drool over; the "I left a book of matches" line that diverts Otto's idiot friend pumping gas; the pepper spray; Miller by the ashcan fire contemplating the disappeared from the future and "the lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything" (trippy, man); and the punk criminal act of "Let's go get sushi and not pay." And Otto's clean pressed white dress shirt and the tie--I love the tie--as Lite tells him, "Doing my job, white boy."
See this for the authentic eighties street scenes and for my UCLA Bruin buddy (by way of Oxford) director Alex Cox who dreamed the whole thing up. Only an Englishman could really see America authentically.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
I suppose Repo Man was one of those essentials in the catalogue of must see punk movies. I think that's where I first heard of it, as a punk science fiction movie. That explains why it's such a crazy movie.
Emilio Esteves is down and out suburban punker Otto, wasting away in his little town with no way out. He just got fired from his crappy price tag job at some hoser supermarket. His girlfriend dumps him and hooks up with newly released convict, Duke, who, along with a punker named Archie make a hobby out of robbing stores. Plus, his friend Kevin is a total nerd. And his parents, perpetually brain dead from overexposure to the tv preachers, gave away the money they promised him, which would've helped him get out that dump.
Bud (played by super duper Harry Dean Stanton), a Repo Man, turns Otto on to the dangerous business of reposessing cars, which then becomes Otto's new occupation and introduction to some pretty crazy sh!t. Aside from dodging bullets by angry debtors and the fierce competition among the Repo Men to obtain a high stakes Chevy Malibu, Otto is also turned on to some UFO conspiracies as weird scientists go searching for extra terrestrials. That town Otto lives in is one crazy place. There's a lot going on, but it is so wierd, that it actually turns out to be good.
If you like punk culture movies, this is definitely one to try out. Plus, you get a slamming soundtrack with most of the songs performed by the Stooges and the Circle Jerks. The Jerks also appear as the lounge act in the bar, and the guy who plays Kevin, Zander Schloss, later joins the Jerks.
I saw this when I was in college in 1984--it totally blew me away. I went back to see it 4 more times! It had a huge following on college campuses back then. Sadly, it seems to have disappeared. That's a shame because I think this is perfect for high school, college kids and people with open minds. It is a true cult film.
There are many great lines--too many to get in one viewing--this film demands multiple viewings. The actors deal well with the offbeat dialogue and situations--especially Estevez and Stanton. As for what it means---who cares? Every time I saw it I saw something different in it.
A classic. Do not miss!
'Repo Man' is so original, so funny, so weird and so frequently brilliant that it just can't be ignored. It also has aged fairly well. It looks pretty good in 2004 for a cheap cult film of the 80s.
I can't really say much about the storyline without giving it away, but what I will say is a young punk kid is taken in to the weird, wild world of repo men, who all take speed and keeping the repo man honour is more important to them than to mafia bosses.
It also features a brilliant soundtrack with the likes of punk rock icons Iggy Pop, The Ramones and The Circle Jerks.
A brilliant film, recommended to anyone.
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*.
It used to be that "cult" movie were bad movies that a small number of people liked an awful lot. They were generally not well acted or well written or well directed but there was something about them that a distinct minority of the audience would embrace and cherish. Maybe it was the basic idea of the story or a particular character or scene but there would be something that would catch the attention of a few while most viewers simply considered the film a piece of crap. That definition has changed in the last couple of decades. A "cult" movie is no longer a bad film that has a small but devoted audience. "Cult" now signifies a deliberate weirdness and a disinterest or refusal to be conventionally entertaining. No longer attempts at normal filmmaking that failed, "cult" movies today are never meant to or try to appeal to broad audiences. The whole goal is now to be as distinctively odd and incomprehensible as possible.
While certainly not the first modern "cult" film, Repo Man is one of the first widely known and established some of the conventions of the modern "cult" genre. In a very generic sense, the movie is about the coming of age of Otto (Emilio Estevez) a young punk who tires of his life working days at a grocery store and nights slam dancing with his fellow losers. By chance, Otto falls in with Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), a repo man who brings Otto into the business and tries to teach him the "repo code". While that's going on a bunch of federal agents are trying to find a 1964 Chevy Malibu with some alien corpses in the trunk and there's also another side story where three of Otto's former punk friends embark on a crime spree that turns into the worst afterschool special of all time.
There's a lot of weird stuff in Repo Man. All the federal agents are blonde except for the lead agent who has a metal hand. Everything the characters eat or drink comes out of a generic package. A grimy mechanic dispenses zen wisdom and the repo men have an angry debate over whether or not John Wayne was a "fag". If you take out the weirdness, this is a terrible movie. The story is haphazard and none of the actors except Harry Dean Stanton ever get much chance to emote, and he's basically stuck reciting lame theories about the way of the world to Otto. But with all the strangeness, I can definitely see the appeal.
You'd certainly need to be the right age and the right attitude to be grabbed by the story "eff the world" outlook on the pointlessness and absurdity of life, but it also helps to be old enough to remember what the 1980s felt like to people who weren't in tune with Ronald Reagan's new America. With its blaring punk soundtrack and its wallowing in oddity, Repo Man is definitely an acquired taste. But it you can acquire it, it is pretty tasty.