When an over-the-top goth-rock opera starring Paris Hilton does a better job of exploring the supposedly serious subject matter of your sci-fi thriller, something’s definitely wrong. The much-delayed futuristic action movie Repo Men (changed from the more enticing-sounding title Repossession Mambo) is a grim, plodding take on the same basic subject matter as 2008’s Repo! The Genetic Opera, a shrill and manic but distinctive look at a world in which artificial organs are violently repossessed when people can no longer pay for them.
That’s exactly what goes on in Repo Men, except instead of a sickly sweet Rocky Horror Picture Show world of theatrical musical numbers, Repo Men takes place in the same generic urban wasteland of the future that’s been standard issue since Blade Runner in 1982. There’s very little originality here, with a plot that borrows liberally from Blade Runner and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, among other sources. Jude Law is the corporate functionary who never questions his job (as an agent performing impromptu surgery to recover organs that are in arrears) until he himself becomes a target of the all-powerful Big Brother-style organization known as The Union: Forced to accept an artificial heart when his own fails, Law’s Remy finds himself on the run from his own partner (Whitaker) when he is unable to cover his payments.
Remy stumbles into the standard underground resistance of every dystopian tale, and falls in love for no apparent reason with a singer (Braga) whose addiction to organ-replacement has made her a prime Union target. Naturally, they team up to Take Down the System. That involves an orgy of nasty violence and lots of overwritten narration from Law, but the movie’s stone-faced seriousness just comes off as silly. It’s fine to explore an absurd premise like this from a patently cartoonish perspective (as in The Genetic Opera), but Repo Men makes like it has profound social commentary to offer, right down to its cheap fake-out of an ending. It’s actually complete nonsense, but the filmmakers seem too self-satisfied to know any better.