First things first: this is not your father’s Repo Man. Alex Cox’s 1984 cult favourite about the car-repo business was very much rooted in its time.
Conversely, Miguel Sapochnik’s film is set in that nebulous future that sort of looks like now, only bigger, noisier and messier. And it’s not old bangers, its anti-heroes we are interested in.
Remy (Jude Law) and Jake (Forest Whitaker) are ex-military buddies now working as repo men for dodgy med-tech firm The Union, makers, suppliers and fitters of robotic internal organs sold with a treacherous returns policy and sky-high interest rates.
Fallen behind on your payments for that synthetic kidney? Then with stun guns and sharp knives they’re taking it back, whether or not you’re still using it. Remy’s happy in his work until an accident forces him to become a Union customer himself – and there’s no staff discount.
Literally and figuratively, Remy undergoes a change of heart, which sets up a bitter conflict with bossman Frank (Liev Schreiber). Inevitably, the hunter becomes the hunted, leading to a series of graphic but ungainly fights and chases that flag up first-time director Sapochnik’s grievous inexperience.
Repo Men’s dystopian vision bears remarkable similarities to 2008’s Repo! The Genetic Opera. One key difference to that Paris Hilton oddity, though: it takes itself far too seriously when it should be having more fun with its speculative (high) concepts.
The opening minutes quote Austrian quantum theory at us, while the Blade Runner-style narration fails to deliver more than empty clichés (“A job’s not just a job, it’s who you are!”), pitching for a gravitas the film doesn’t fulfil.
Fans of excessive amounts of treacly pools of blood won’t go home unsated, while music lovers are equally well catered for by the excellent retro soundtrack. But when you break it down, Repo Men is one note in search of a full chorus.
Juicy ideas are crushed by an over-inflated sense of self-importance. Sci-fi fans will be left wanting, though there’s some joy for gore connoisseurs as Jude slashes and slices his way to a surprise ending.