Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Repo Man (1984)

"…It’s 4 A.M., do you know where your car is?"

Synopsis: Frustrated punk rocker Otto (Elimio Estevez, "The Breakfast Club", "Maximum Overdrive") who 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 (Harry Dean Stanton, "Alien", "Escape From New York"). 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 (Olivia Barash, "Tuff Turf", "Fame"), 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 (Tracey Walter, "Batman", "The Silence of the Lambs"), 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.

My Thoughts: The “cult film” tag is thrown out there way too often, much of the time undeserved. British filmmaker Alex Cox’s 1984 classic truly warrants that title. This fairly unknown low-budget sci-fi/comedy still holds up, even 27 years after it’s release.

Alex Cox’s debut is so full of strange characters and sub-plots that it’s a miracle it doesn’t completely fall apart half way through. I gotta attribute that to not only Cox’s script, but to the great acting from his more than competent cast. Harry Dean Stanton practically steals the show as Bud, a smooth talking low-life repo man who has done and seen it all. His scenes with Estevez are classic and are responsible for some incredible quotes like, "What are you? A fuckin' commie? I don't want no commies in my car … No Christians either!". Tracey Walter also has a hilarious scene where he explains to Otto about what he calls the “cosmic unconsciousness” and how flying saucers are really time machines.

Repo Man has as much sarcasm, dark humor and inside jokes as you will ever find in a film. I’ve probably seen it over a dozen times and I’m still picking up on things that I’ve missed. On my last watch, I just noticed that everybody who works at the repo yard is named after a beer (Bud, Oly, Miller, Lite).

…and how can I forget about the incredible soundtrack, which is includes the Suicidal Tendencies classic, “Institutionalized”. Not to mention, songs by The Circle Jerks, Black Flag and Iggy Pop. The highlight of the album has to be Burning Sensations cover of the 1976 Modern Lovers’ tune, “Pablo Picasso”. A song consisting of just spoken word lyrics over a “Peter Gunn” riff, that contains the lyrics: "Well some people try to pick up girls/And get called assholes/This never happened to Pablo Picasso/He could walk down your street/And girls could not resist his stare/Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole …not like you." The Repo Man soundtrack is practically a time capsule of L.A.’s hardcore/punk scene during the early 80’s.

My Rating: 9 / 10

This film falls into the must-own category. I don’t even know why I didn’t rate it a 10 out of 10. Don’t take my word for it, check it out on Netflix instant. A blu-ray version has yet to be released, but I definitely recommend picking up the collector’s edition DVD. It’s a high quality transfer with some great extras, including scenes from the network T.V. version that weren’t included in the original film and were left off the DVD’s original release.

"click here to see the trailer"

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