Thursday, March 18, 2010

'Repo Men:' Another futuristic dud

Jude Law and Forest Whitaker as scary repo men.
Ah, the things movies will do so that a couple of grown men can chase each other around a decaying city. Who knows? Without chases, three-quarters of Hollywood's output might be reducible by half. Don't pause to figure it out. Just keep reading, but know that without pursuit, many movies wouldn't exist at all.

That's the story of Repo Men, a futuristic thriller in which Forest Whitaker chases after Jude Law. The reason for this frenzied endeavor involves an elaborate story that wraps around some fairly routine action. Both Whitaker and Law play repo men, only instead of snatching cars from deadbeats who default on their loans, they retrieve artificial organs from people who can't make their payments, a procedure that enables director Miguel Sapochnik to pile on the gore.

In case you need elaboration on what I mean by gore, consider, say, the removal of an artificial heart. To take back someone's heart, you have to slice open his or her body and reach into the chest cavity. If you had trouble cutting up the fetal pig in freshman biology, you definitely will want to steer clear of this one - although there are many other reasons besides potential revulsion for ignoring Repo Men.

Not the least is an uninspired plot: Law portrays Remy, an ace repo man who operates without conscience. The repo man's credo: A job's a job. After an accident during what should have been an easy repossession, the tables turn on Remy. He receives an artificial heart, and loses his desire to carve organs out of organ recipients, almost all of whom were pressured into buying by a slick corporate type (Liev Schreiber).

The cliché applies: The hunter becomes the hunted, teaming up along the way with a woman (Alice Braga) who's also being chased. It seems that she's almost entirely made up of spare parts.

I'm not sure that Repo Men will live long and prosper, but it has one scene in which organ removal between consenting adults is treated with the steamy leer of big-screen sex. I don't know if that makes Law, who slices without dicing, a doctor of love, but it made me laugh in a way that little else in the film did.

The future that Sapochnik & company imagine isn't radically different from the present, aside from the fact that the movie takes place in a city loaded with neon and other low-rent hints that someone has spent too much time watching Blade Runner.

A footnote: With his hair cropped close and his face looking semi-skeletal, Law has the aura of an undernourished puppet. Whitaker, always good at off-kilter line readings, fares a little better, but this hasn't been much of a month for him. He struck out in the woeful comedy Our Family Wedding, and now finds himself in a movie that goes nowhere, other than to present us with one more evil corporation that, like every other big-screen monolith, gets away with murder.


If you made it this far, you deserve a bonus. Here it is: If Repo Men tries to stave boredom with blood, The Bounty Hunter - a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler - is a bloody bore. Butler plays a bounty hunter who's trying to bring in his ex-wife (Aniston), who skipped out on her bail after a traffic offense. He's an ex-detective; she's a reporter. This less than dynamic duo bickers while becoming increasingly involved in an extraordinarily lame plot involving a potentially corrupt cop. If a license were required to make romcoms, then perhaps director Andy Tennant should have his revoked. I didn't expect much from The Bounty Hunter and got even less.

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