Repo Man

Repo Man follows the life of a punk loser Otto (Emilio Estevez) who is duped into stealing a car for seasoned repo man Bud (Harry Dean Stanton)

There are many types of movies that have achieved the status of cult classic. Sometimes they get this appellation because they are so bad people enjoy it, like Plan 9 from Outer Space. Others enter into cult status because they forever changed all films that follow such as Star Wars. With Repo Man you have a combination of the two. While much of it comes across as a film school project fundamental aspects of this film have been repeated in many modern films. The story follows the life of a punk loser Otto (Emilio Estevez) who is duped into stealing a car for seasoned repo man Bud (Harry Dean Stanton). Having nothing better to do with his life he soon finds himself in the full time employ as a repo man. Central to the story is an old, beat up Malibu sought after by a mysterious government agency whose agents all dress in black. In the trunk of this car is an alien body. The trunk grows when opened and anyone unfortunate enough to be in front of the trunk when it is opened is instantly turned to dust. Soon everyone is after the car. The rag-tag group of repo men, car thieves punk thieves and the agency. What ensues is a romp through the darker side of LA as each group crosses paths with the others.

Estevez handles the role of dazed and confused Otto to perfection. He isn’t searching for meaning in life as much as he is just for a way to get by. Stanton becomes his mentor, a poor man’s Yoda who imparts the wisdom of life through the immutable Repo Man’s code. Stanton, an excellent character actor, shows he has the talent to handle a larger role than he is usually given. While the writing is often pedantic, the talent of the actors in this film actually pulls off the film. Especially well played is the role of Miller (Tracey Walter). Yes, most of the male characters of this film are named for beers, the preferred beverage in this movie. Walter is the kind of actor you see everywhere. He is the skell in TV police dramas, the bum informant in cop movies and the typical inhabitant of the gritty places in dramas. Here he does what he does best, he plays a beaten down man derided by other losers.

The writer and director of this classic is Alex Cox. While he never really had another film as successful as Repo Man he does have talent. For someone born in England he has an excellent grasp on what makes America unique. The takes this film into a difficult genre, the Sci-Fi/Black Comedy. The special effects are cheesy, almost laughable by modern standards but here they not only work, they make the film. The effects are so bad you are forced to concentrate on the characters. Cox could not get permission to use product names so every item is the film is the generic white label with black letters. Rather than find this a limitation Cox laughs at it with a can labeled simply FOOD or DRINK and a bottle of drugs marked AMYL NITRATE. You can readily see how much influence Cox has had on director today, especially, Quentin Tarentino. The glowing trunk which became the glowing briefcase in Pulp Fiction. Even the sound track foreshadows Pulp Fiction. Cox also page homage to great directors such as Hitchcock. The alien in the trunk is a classic McGuffin. Something vital to the characters yet unimportant to the audience. Cox drives the action along better than many directors that have hits today. You are compelled to watch this film.

The package for the Limited Edition is wild. It is a metal box the size and shape of a license plate. Inside are the DVD and a CD of the sound track. There is also a little booklet with details of the movie. Unfortunately, the limited edition is discontinued so you have to settle for the special edition, still a must have. The director’s commentary is laid back and informal providing an interesting look back at the making of this film. The remastered Dolby 5.1 audio booms out at you. The sub woofer is driven to overdrive. The anamorphic 1.85:1 is extremely clean obviously from a print hidden away for many years. Get this film, sit back with a can of DRINK and some FOOD and enjoy.

Review by Doug MacLean of

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