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
the damnedest cult-movie; uneven but rocking with attitude, humor and individuality
Alex Cox probably knew what he was doing with Repo Man, but it was probably something he concocted while in the basement of a young punk rocker with a lot of dirty second-rate comic books and a lot of booze. How it comes out on the screen makes it a kind of bizarre outcast in the realm of science-fiction comedies, because it's not entirely a comedy (there's some moments that feel like they SHOULD be more dramatic, like the dynamic between Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez for the most part, or the scenes with secret-service-type alien chasers). In fact science fiction seems to be looming over the heads of everyone like it's some sort of half-goofy half-conspiratorial quagmire, all leading up to a Chevy Malibu that has a certain 'quality' about it. Much of the story's tangents don't even seem to make too much sense, and the structure feels like it's been put together in cheap (hence the comic-books). But Cox is always working with a mind-set for what's unexpected with absurdities and, oddly enough for such a punk-rock movie, quirkiness.
Estevez plays Otto, a perennial punk-rocker who has a 'f*** you' attitude to practically all authority figures, which keeps him usually unemployed. Enter in Stanton with his job as a repo-man, with cars getting taken away by "dildoes who don't follow the rules", and so he joins up as he's got no prospects at all. As he learns how to go about getting car after car, a suspicious wormy guy in glasses is driving around a peculiar car that has a trunk that's similar to something out of the Ark of the Covenant, only more alien-like. So then, as Cox's rude and crude attitude goes, we get the secret-service guys, the bizarre punks who are all about causing disorganized chaos and robberies, ill-tempered Hispanics, a far-out guy at the repo place named Miller, and meanwhile there's always wackiness around the corner. The characters are more or less the main thing Cox works with here, as almost everyone here is an eccentric, or an oddball, or a total off-his-rocker loon (or just, you know, with their 'secrets'). And Otto himself is a prototype of the typical 80s kid, with no respect but not necessarily stupid either.
And around these characters a lot of crazy things go on, or lines of dialog, and they either work or they don't. The only problem is that Cox isn't always focused with everything from scene to scene, and there's a mid-section that just comes off even too weird for me. But I didn't mind this for the most part; there's almost a sense in the narrative that it's supposed to be sloppy and mismanaged, and through this there's more inventive qualities than one might find in a more prestigious flick with more money. Add on to this one of the great 80s soundtracks, and an ending that gives a big laugh with a big raised-eyebrow, Repo Man is a shaggy dog story, a rebellious-youth pic, and an urban take on the old tale of aliens coming to Earth (for what reason I still can't tell). A minor work of ingenuity that is understandably with its cult audience.
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