Plenty of interior body parts are forcibly removed from reluctant humans in the violent, futuristic action film "Repo Men." Kidneys, hearts, livers, all high-tech and artificial, are taken out and, in the movie's cautionary premise, rented to the medically needy at usury-friendly rates by a nasty corporation called the Union.
But there's a key organ missing from the movie itself: a brain. In its place is a memory bank of other, better movies.
That's a shame because creeping around the edges of "Repo Men" is the potential for a funky and prescient piece of gory dystopian satire. For starters, it's got three game male leads: Jude Law as Remy, one of the titular enforcers, a blue-collar Everyhunk whose task -- if you're a customer overdue on payments -- is to slit you up a treat and retrieve that expensive biomedical breakthrough inside that you thought was prolonging your life; Forest Whitaker as his prankish colleague, who'd love nothing more than to be a repo forever; and Liev Schreiber as their oily, always-be-closing boss, the Union's top salesman.
When Remy, estranged from his wife (a scowling Carice Van Houten) and kid, gets hurt on the job and wakes up sporting his own pricey Union ticker and a crushing debt, he experiences -- wink, wink -- a change of heart about his mean, bloody job. Knowing what the day of collecting means, Remy and a nightclub singer (Alice Braga) with a hot bod of black-market parts decide they must fight to foreclose on the system instead.
But where screenwriters Eric Garcia (adapting his own novel) and Garrett Lerner start off with a nifty sci-fi hybrid of headline-conscious concerns about where subprime blues, privacy woes, biotechnology and unconscionable healthcare are taking us, they and director Miguel Sapochnik would ultimately rather sell you a loud and ludicrous tour of genre references. It starts with John Cleese's "Can we have your liver then?" from "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life" and barrels through "Blade Runner" (production design), "Logan's Run" (fugitive scenario), "Coma" (all-white room reveal), "Brazil" (everything), David Cronenberg's "Crash" (don't ask) and even a sub-Tarantino attempt to re-create the virtuoso corridor melee from "Old Boy."
It takes a more skillful hand than Sapochnik's to mix cinematic homage, thrills and thematic fluidity -- think "Minority Report" or "Children of Men" -- which leaves "Repo Men" feeling like its own desperate case of debt obligation.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times