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Out(Law) Patient Surgery


published in the San Antonio Current, March 24, 2010

Most science-fiction films start out deeply in debt, and Repo Men – a competent, if somewhat uneven, futuristic thriller – is no exception. Its creditors include The Matrix, Minority Report, A.I., and Gattaca, but like any decent sci-fi movie of the last (nearly) 30 years, the highest balance is owed to Blade Runner. Jude Law’s Remy is Deckard for this decade, which looks to a future where the health-care debate is the least of our problems.

Remy and his longtime friend Jake (Whitaker) work for a nefarious corporation called the Union, which manufactures artificial organs – artiforgs for short – that you can purchase for exorbitant prices, “on a credit plan that fits your lifestyle.” Fall behind on your payments, however, and the Union will reclaim its property without regard for pesky concerns like anesthesia or your survival. Remy and Jake relish their role as the enforcers of this grave new world, which bears a striking resemblance to the sprawling urban ad-land in Ridley Scott’s vision of 2019 Los Angeles. Family pressure eventually forces Remy to choose between the job he was made for and a safer position in the sales department. When one final repo goes awry, Remy lands in the hospital with an artificial heart, a crushing debt, and a crisis of conscience over the moral ambiguity of his “a job’s a job” philosophy.

Law’s angular, android features look right at home in futuristic dystopias, and his cerebral brand of physicality plays well against Whitaker’s brutish charisma. Newcomer director Miguel Sapochnik keeps the pacing brisk and shows a gift for balancing violence and humor. There’s plenty of both, and no shortage of action clichés, but the movie acquits these offenses neatly in the final scene. Repo Men may be a replicant of better films, but it runs like a dream.

Greg MorrisonComment