Repo Man is a cult movie mixing the most diverse genres: science fiction, action, fantasy, thriller, dramatic, comedy… If you ask me to define it with a single adjective, I would use “punk”. This film doesn’t give a s**t about anyone or anything and brings home a great result, even if at the time (1984) it was a box office flop mainly due to the little (or no) distribution effort of the producers. The director and screenwriter Alex Cox wrote the script by drawing on his experience as a repo man. Repo men work to repossess goods for which a purchaser has defaulted on payment. Essentially, these persons steal cars from people who have problems paying them. Cox’s story, though, has science fiction / fantasy elements from the beginning (with a Chevrolet Malibu used as MacGuffin) and adds to it humor, social satire, good music, conspiracy theories… in short, a bit of everything.
Here’s the plot. Otto (Emilio Estevez) is a twenty-one-year-old punk (correction: eighteen years old) whose parents spend their days in front of a TV evangelist. He gets involved almost by chance in the repo man business. It’s Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) who takes him in, a very strange character who introduces him, among other things, even to cocaine.
This “ordinary” story takes place in a quite weird world built by Alex Cox: think of Miller’s (Tracey Walter) speeches, or of the scenes in which Bud and Otto buy things in stores which are constantly robbed by Otto’s friends. Thanks to Leila (Olivia Barash), to whom Otto gives a ride, the supernatural elements enter Otto’s life. Leila is convinced that there’s a conspiracy involving the army keeping secret the existence of aliens and… it’s all true! Take that, The X-Files, you arrived late!
Don’t expect a linear or even a particularly meaningful plot: it’s a mix of repo men, Otto’s punk friends, the Rodriguez brothers (Del Zamora and Eddie Velez), Leila who then sides with agent Rogersz (Susan Barnes) who has a metal hand for no particular reason, a TV preacher, a mysterious lobotomized man (Fox Harris)… And everyone will get together in a dreamlike ending.
The film contains endless moments to remember and memorable jokes, such as Bud shouting “I don’t want no commies in my car. No Christians either!“, or Duke’s last words on society creating its own monsters instantly denied by Otto who basically tells him to shut his mouth. But while Cox ridicules an easy attack on society, in the meantime he’s extremely critical of the United States of the eighties where everyone seems happy to drink from cans whose labels simply say “drink” and eat from cans labelled “food“, the government tortures its citizens (but there’s nothing personal), policemen do nothing at all, and even punks want to have a family because that’s what everyone does.
As said, the film is also a comedy, and in fact one of its better scenes is when it makes fun of conspiracy with Leila talking on the phone with the driver of the famous Chevrolet Malibu who’s a few meters away and the two can’t understand each other because he is using a scrambler to make his voice unrecognizable for no reason whatsoever.
In short, Repo Man is truly a great film, and it’s even more impressive if we think that it is the debut of Alex Cox (which would make another cult movie, Syd and Nancy, 1986, and then disappear from the radar, except for the credit in the script of Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in 1994). The wonderful soundtrack of the film is also worth mentioning, including a song that Iggy Pop wrote at the request of Alex Cox himself.
It’s clear that every dialogue of Repo Man was carefully crafted and that the plot was at the service of a sharp social commentary without forgetting to entertain and create a certain mystery that works really well. The cast, made up entirely of what can be called standard secondary actors, is also amazing, and Harry Dean Stanton and the very young Emilio Estevez shine in every scene they’re in. In short, this is a gem of the eighties that’s worth (re)discovering, ciao!
- The movie trailer on Youtube
- The movie page on Internet Movie DataBase
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