Part Blade Runner, part Brazil, and almost all bad ideas, Repo Men is a mean-spirited sci-fi action-thriller, when it isn't trying to prove how much heart it has.
What heart it has is most assuredly artificial, much like the central character, Remy, played by Jude Law. Otherwise, though, Repo Men merely uses big ideas as wrapping paper, to disguise the fact that it doesn't really have anything on its mind at all, except finding creative ways to photograph arterial blood spraying from someone's neck.
Set in a future where ads for The Fast and the Furious X flash on electronic billboards in the unnamed, overbuilt metropolis where it takes place, Repo Men is told in sporadic first-person narration by Remy, who works for an apparently all-powerful corporation called The Union. The Union has developed artificial versions of most of the major organs in the human body and sells them for a hefty pricetag.
In this future, either universal health care is still an unfulfilled dream or there are still limits to what it will cover. In any case, the mechanical implants are available at that steep price - or on an installment plan, with almost 20 percent interest. And here's the catch - and the movie's premise: If you fall too far behind in your payments, The Union sends their men to repossess the organ, leaving you as a bloody corpse.
Talk about a cut-throat business - or is that cut-torso?
Anyway, where other repo men affect bad-ass biker wear, Remy favors math-geek buttoned-collar short sleeve white shirts. His partner is Jake (Forest Whitaker), a rough-and-ready type who is his childhood pal. But Remy's wife disapproves of his profession and has been pressuring him to get out of collections and into sales.
Before he can, however, Remy's heart fails in the middle of a job. When he comes to in a hospital, he's been outfitted with the latest-model artificial ticker. But as his boss Frank (Liev Schreiber) tells him, with his skills as a collector, he'll have no problem making the payments.
Only one problem: After they give him the transplant, his heart is no longer in the job. Get it? Huh?
And when he can no longer meet his payments and The Union sends men to repossess his implant, he suddenly understands what the people he's been colledting from have been going through.
So he had to lose his heart to have a change of heart. See? Do you get it now?
Now - if this movie only had a brain.
Director Miguel Sapochnik mimics moments from other, better movies (including a one-man showdown with a hallway full of opponents that mirrors a crucial scene in the Korean film, Old Boy). His action scenes are brutal and bloody, to no real purpose. And the script by Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner (based on Garcia's novel) envisions a future where it might as well be open season for hunting the poor. That's what the repo men seem to be doing, in a couple of overblown round-up scenes that leave the landscape strewn with bodies, but no apparent law-enforcement interest.
In Sherlock Holmes and now Repo Men, Law apparently is trying to refashion himself as an action hero. But it doesn't matter how buff he gets - he's not really convincing. Neither, for that matter, is Whitaker, badly miscast in a movie for the second week in a row (after Our Family Wedding).
Repo Men may provide a quick fix for thrill-seekers looking for a taste of the old ultraviolence. But if you want your movies to make sense, well, this one can't even boast of having artificial intelligence.