on September 16, 2015
This movie laid the groundwork for all the warped and far fetched movies like Back To The Future, Weird Science, Pulp Fiction and Hot Tub Time Machine et al to follow. Yet, there's such a tone of seriousness and great dialog in this movie, it stands out on it's own to this day. Bordering on a John Hughes coming of age romp, to an almost Herzog or Wenders thought provoking diatribe of purpose and place. I think 'Monkee Man' Mike Nesmith somehow kept Alex Cox in a more focused line for this film, though it's somewhat hard to tell. And performances by Stanton, Tracey Walter, Sy Richardson, et al really keep it on the ground (even when things go up in the air!) Criterion did a great job with the packaging and bonus materials as well. All one needs to know about this film, the neutron bomb, and Harry Dean Stanton (Not sure which is worse on learning with those two? LOL) Some say it's just a punk rock film, others say sci-fi, and many just say juvenile fantasy. It's all that, and more. in a word, it's 'precedence'.
on June 21, 2004
Like most of my reviews, I will try to keep this brief. I say watch it twice because as much as i love low budget movies...I couldn't decide if i loved the movie or thought that it was a waste of my day. After the first viewing, i didnt get a chance to see the movie again until 3 years later when i got a chance to purchase the special edition(before it became an excrutiatingly high price) i picked it up used from the store that i worked at. My first point is the awesome soundtrack. I actually purchased the special edition because of the soundtrack and the packaging. To pay $25 dollars for a soundtrack and a cool case is extreme, but that shows how awesome the sntrk is (as long as you love old-school punk). But after the second viewing I realized how incredible the movie really was, whether it was a for the simple great humor or the incredible satire that it is. You may want to rent it before you buy it, but when you realize that you love it...you wont feel that it was wasted money renting it first.
on February 12, 2004
Alex Cox (Sid & Nancy) made his directorial debut with this bombastic, abrasive, satiric, and highly influential film. Repo Man tells the story of disgruntled punk rocker Otto (a young Emilio Estevez) who becomes a repo man under the tutilage of veteran repo man Bud (Harry Dean Stanton). Soon Otto becomes quite good at his job, but a mysterious '64 Chevy Malibu soon becomes sought after by Otto and a some rival repo men when a high priced commission is put on it. What's in the car's trunk will change everything, and I mean everything. One of the key films of the 80's, Repo Man is undoubtadly the best piece of work to come from Alex Cox, and even though it may seem chaotic and even a bit incoherent at times, there is an underlining theme to the film that links to the political uneasiness felt during the 80's. The scorching punk soundtrack features legends like Black Flag, Iggy Pop, and the Suicidal Tendencies; all of which add to the bombastic feel of the film. Universal's recent re-release of Repo Man surprisingly includes the commentary by Cox and various crew members (which was previously only available on Anchor Bay's Limited Edition release of the film which has been out of print) as well as a trailer. This is surprising to me considering every one of Universal's recently re-released films like They Live and Prince of Darkness have no extras at all. All in all, I strongly suggest picking up Repo Man, it's something you won't regret or forget.
on October 3, 2003
I've loved Repo Man since the first time I saw it on late night cable. Repo man is a great film which I love to watch over and over. The characters have a raw/cold edge that are foreign and familiar at the same time.
My only gripe is that a couple of scenes were edited out on the DVD. Although the scenes are not integral to the overall story, I knew I had missed something but wasn't sure exactly what at first.
The one scene that that I really miss is where J. Frank Parnell talks about Lorna Doones and goes on about vending machine food being the perfect food. Is it insight into Frank's life - not having a life outside of long hours on the job or is it the radiation affecting his mind?
Another scene cut is the one where Otto and Bud attack a pay phone with a sledge hammer to get some money. This scene is partially shown in the video trailer in the "Extras" section.
It's an excellent film and I give it 5 stars, but I wish that they had not cut out the scenes.
on July 7, 2003
Repo Man is a twisted movie, which blends social satire, sci-fi, suburban angst and consumerism targets that were prominent in the 1980s, such as TV preachers, people who claimed to see UFOs, and angry punk rockers rebelling against the gamor of the decade. Emilio Estevez plays a nihilistic young male out of a job and practically robbed of a future when his parents, apparently hippies or born-again Christians, give all of his savings away to a TV preacher so they can 'send bibles to El Salvador,' according to the holy mission of this evangelist that appears in the movie often. He meets up w/ Bud, who offers him [money]to move his wife's car out of a 'bad area,' presumably a ghetto. After the chaotic scene, Otto (Estevez's character)knew something was up, and gets dragged into becoming a 'repo man,' a guy that repossesses cars when the owners do not pay their bills.
The company, among other parties, such as eccentric UFO spotters, and the Rodriguez brothers, are after this one car driven by a lobotomized scientist which contains some alien device of some sort in its trunk that disintegrates those who come in cotact with it, such as a highway patroman and one of Otto's punk rock anarchist friends. The movie consists of nothing but chaos throughout the plot in which all the groups invovled try to get hold of this Chavrolet Malibu, and the ending is rather surprisng, but very cheesy at the same time. The sci-fi effects in this movie are dated, and scream 80s (after all this movie was made in 1984), but its satirical edge and rather cryptic storyline make Repo Man an interesting, but occassionally bewildering film.
on May 1, 2003
I put this eighties cult classic right up there with Blazing Saddles (1974) and Dr. Stranglove (1964) as one of the best satires ever to hit the silver screen. No exaggeration: this is one bizarre and one very funny flick. Seeing it again after almost twenty years, I gotta say, it lost nothing.
Emilio Estevez stars as Otto Maddox, a head-strong and slightly naive ex-supermarket stock clerk and sometime punk rocker. He's kicking a can down the street when up pulls Bud, "a repo man," played with a fine degeneracy by Harry Dean Stanton, who asks him if he wants to make ten bucks. (Otto's reply is memorable but not printable here.) When he learns that Bud just wants him to drive a car and not...uh, never mind, he bargains it to twenty-five bucks. When he finds out that Bud repossesses cars for the "Helping Hand Acceptance Corporation," he is sorely offended. But when he realizes how intense the life is (and how bleak his other employment opportunities), he becomes a repo man himself.
Meanwhile there's J. Frank Parnell (Fox Harris wearing a demonic grin and weird glasses with one black and one empty frame) driving a "hot" '64 Chevy Malibu. "You don't want to look in the trunk, Officer," he tells a cop who pulls him over on a desert highway. By the way, the map under the opening credits shows the action of this film beginning somewhere on old Route 66 in New Mexico, suggesting alien mecca Roswell territory perhaps, but most of scenes were clearly shot in LA, and the desert scene just mentioned was probably also shot in California as evidenced by the Joshua Trees in the background.
What director and scriptster Alex Cox does is combine urban ghetto realism with bizarro sci-fi shtick. He adds a fine punk soundtrack including the title song from Iggy Pop with a brief appearance by the Circle Jerks, and wow are they appropriate, but you have be a punker or a 15-year-old to really visualize their moniker. The supporting players, Sy Richardson as Lite, a black cat repo ace, and Tracey Walter as Miller, a demented street philosopher, really stand out. I also liked the girl repo person with attitude (Vonetta McGee).
The real strength of the movie, aside from probably the best performance of Estevez's career, is in the street scene hijinks, the funny and raunchy dialogue, and all those sight gags. My favorite scene has Otto coming home to find his parents smoking ... on the couch zombie-like in front of the TV listening to a Christian evangelist while he scarfs down "Food" out of a blue and white can from the refrigerator. I mean "Food" is on the label, period. The Ralphs plain wrap (remember them) are all over the sets, in the convenience store, at the supermarket, bottles of plain wrap whiskey and plain wrap "Tasteetos," plain wrap beer and plain wrap cigarettes.
Some other good shtick: the dead rat thrown in the car with the woman that doesn't accomplish its purpose; the money in the presents that Otto throws out the window busted open by the tires of another car for us to see and drool over; the "I left a book of matches" line that diverts Otto's ... friend pumping gas; the pepper spray; Miller by the ashcan fire contemplating the disappeared from the future and "the lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything" (trippy, man); and the punk criminal act of "Let's go get sushi and not pay." And Otto's clean pressed white dress shirt and the tie--I love the tie--as Lite tells him, "Doing my job, white boy."
See this for the authentic eighties street scenes and for my UCLA Bruin buddy (by way of Oxford) director Alex Cox who dreamed the whole thing up. Only an Englishman could really see America authentically.
on March 14, 2003
If you're one of those people who look for movies that are more odd than anything else, look no further than Repo Man. Emilio Estevez is the young punk turned reluctant Repo Man. That's the simplest part of the story. From there the movie unfolds sidestepping genre after genre. Some of the funniest, sharp witted dialogue ever to grace a film script puts the quote factor of this movie into the stratosphere.
"It happens sometimes. People just explode. Natural causes."
Case in point. Or how about this:
"I do want your money because God wants your money."
"The more you drive the less intelligent you are."
"Let's go get sushi and not pay."
"Did you ever hear of the neutron bomb?"
"Since time is short and you may lie I'm going to have to torture you."
Bottom line is if you haven't seen this movie make it a point to do so. Truly a celebration of the indescribable. Great doesn't do it justice. Repo Man turns convention on its head and then quickly, repeatedly, kicks it in the face. We need more movies like this. And remember:
"Society made me what I am."
on February 14, 2003
We all have that twiggy nesting-material of books, music, and film media we like to snuggle into, works of art that built our world, that tug at our heart-cockles, that giddy us up like laughing gas in an orgone-chamber, that string us out in a smirking nostalgia-trip that can't be bought, and yet (here's the craw-sticker), when trying to submit our passions for peer-review, are frankly at a loss as to *why* these idiocentric kinks and foibles gave us such a buzz in the first place.
Take Alex Cox's *Repo Man*(1984), for instance. Why on earth is this ridiculous little sci-fi cartoon so important to me?
Originally slated as a UCLA student film (and it shows), the film's dramatic logic is more disjointed than a book of Zen koans penned by Chuck Palahniuk. Its characters (to call them that) are flimsier than paper-mache finger-puppets framed with matchsticks and epoxy, onscreen relationships as stodgy, rushed, and unconvincing as Brazilian soap opera sans attractive actors. The dialogue is hammy, inconsistent, rife with hairy non sequiturs, and not always as funny as it thinks it is (just think Troma Studios cross-bred with the endless performative one-liners of *Reservoir Dogs*). Sure, postmodern rigamarole can be fun, and *Repo Man* is intended as devil-may-care black farce, but how on earth did the folks at Universal end up green-lighting this punk-infused bit of cine-trash? (As Mike Nesmith reveals in the commentary, it was a "negative pick-up," funded by the producer and then pimped out to the studios as easy product.)
And yet, and *yet*, the film has a certain.....texture. A panicky edge, a plaintive unreality, grainy and punked-up, infusing South Central and East L.A. location-shooting with Cox's eerie, hard-boiled vision of suburban grunge and quasi-criminal subcultures. The scene where the lights go out over the railway bridge, or when the repo men congregate behind the rusted chain-link of the midnight oil refinery, basked in the cosmic blues of the arc-lamps, the neon reds, greens, and purples of storefronts seeping in at the margins, an urban netherworld harkening back to the salad days of ye olde Interzone (in the hospital scene, the P.A. system hails "Dr. Benway to surgery."), it all greases the rails for the viewer to lose himself in Cox's hoarse and loopy dream. In the vapid, Reagan-era '80s, *Repo Man* offered something heady, dangerous, intoxicating. A mosh-pit alternative to mainstream kitsch like *Caddyshack* or *Fletch*. (Although *Repo Man* is itself a sort of knowing meta-kitsch.)
In its reckless, quirky collusion of disconnected set-pieces and sucker-punch transitions, its visual ad-libbing and unrepentant *silliness*, Cox produces a nerve-janglin' day-trippin' kick-back film (the DVD should have come with a complimentary six-pack) cobbled out of spare parts and spinning wildly into mutant tangents. (*Repo Man* still has the capacity to excite young filmmakers with its shoestring bravado. This is flea-market filmmaking at its most raucous.) I think what holds the flick together in the end is the offbeat charisma of the actors hamming it up to Cox's decidedly non-linear script. Acting legend Harry Dean Stanton is slumming as "Bud," the hardened, grizzly vet of the repo biz, hopped up on coke and speed, Oedipalizing over his protege Otto (Emilio Estevez), the punky Repo Boy. In the film's sweaty mesh of MacGuffin-seeking narrative zig-zags, a tenderness develops between the two actors, the plucky old codger initiating his Dickensian orphan-liege into a para-criminal lifestyle -- but Cox's pomo squiggling ultimately breaks down any sort of character-development. (Otto visiting Bud in the hospital, after leaving him for dead in a puddle of broken glass and Heinz ketchup (literally), is both tender, bemusing, truncated, and completely out of left field.)
Some of the best lines came from special monologues Cox scripted to audition actors, but never intended for the final cut. The actors themselves loved the monologues so much that they pushed to have them included. "S'pose your thinking 'bout a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody says 'plate,' or 'shrimp,' or 'plate of shrimp,' just outta the blue...it's all part of the universal subconscious.... Flying saucers are really time machines." And so on. *Repo Man* was intended as a parable of nuclear war, the original script ending with the atomic destruction of Los Angeles ("Starting with the Valley and then moving out from there," says Cox on the commentary track), but what remains is too heterodox to be "about" anything. (All's I know is that it rocks.)
The DVD commentary (including Cox himself, producer Michael Nesmith (yes, the guy from the Monkees), Del Zamora (the Rodriguez brother with the hair-net), Sy Richardson (the black repo man: "You're still on the job, white boy! Get in the car!"), and Zander Schloss (as Kevin the Nerd, and later vocalist for the Circle Jerks)) makes you feel like you're sharing a kegger with a gaggle of old cronies, laughing when they laugh, feeding off their enthusiasm and nostalgia, ninety minutes of overheard conversation from the next booth -- a panacea for the lonely.
Disappointingly, the DVD offers no deleted scenes, many of which appeared in the edited-for-television version of the film (the one where Otto's potty-mouthed invectives comes out as "Flip you, Melon Farmer! Flip your mother!"). When *Repo Man* was initially cut for TV, the censors removed so much objectionable material that the running time got skimmed down to 55 minutes! To pad the film, Cox reintroduced scenes that didn't make it into the theatrical version, like Harry Dean Stanton demolishing a bank of pay-phones with a sledgehammer, or Otto returning home to find his parents still hunkered down in the TV-room, covered in cobwebs, giving their life-savings to the evil arch-televangelist Rev. Larry "to send bibles to El Salvador."(...!)
But no matter. Repo man's got all night, every night. Now let's go get sushi and not pay.
on January 15, 2003
I've watched this thing so many times that my wife now refers to our twice-yearly viewings as Pilgrimages to Repo Man. I went so far as to buy the script, which contains some great lines that didn't make it into the film ("It's all too random to be random"). How this can fail to be anyone's Absolute Favorite Movie is beyond me, but it must require a certain view of the world to appreciate it because most of my friends don't seem to share my enthusiasm. The script is intelligent, funny and profound in a weird sort of way, the casting is perfect, and the whole thing is just one major hoot. There must be at least ten lines from the film that come back to me again and again as I encounter life's absurdities. It's truly amazing what a number of great movies Harry Dean Stanton has been in, and this is HDS at his finest (also get "UFOria" if you don't already own it). This may be a cult classic, but I hate to label it as such because too often "cult classic" seems to me to be synonymous with "low budget, poorly made and unwatchable." This, in contrast, is a superbly well-made movie in which all of the elements come together and the result is a true work of art. One can only be thankful that it is now available on DVD so one no longer has to treat his VHS copy like a Holy Relic.
on December 16, 2002
Repo Man is completely unclassifiable. Funny, dark, biting, thrilling, confusing, action, adventure, it's all there. Emilio Estevez plays Otto, a "white suburban punk" living in LA's sprawl, with a nowhere job that he loses in the film's second scene. When his hippie parents admit they sent his college fund to a TV preacher (We're sending Bibles to El Salvador!), Otto meets Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), a cocaine-driven Repo Man who needs an extra driver. Otto joins the firm and soon learns the Repo Code; Bud's version (You see, a Repo Man gets himself INTO tense situations), and the other regulars at Helping Hand Auto share their philosophies too. Light finds Bud's view tedious but is willing to handle shoot-outs when he's not reading parodies of Scientology (Diuretix), Miller seems completely neuron-fried (The more you drive, the less intelligent you are), and Oly is along to make a four-pack. (Did you notice the four experienced Repo Men are named after beers?) Let's go get a drink, kid!
Multiple plot strands at first seem unrelated, but bind together closer and tighter as the film moves along. Otto and the other Repo Men are on the lookout for a 1964 Chevy Malibu, with a $25,000 bounty. So are some creepy FBI agents, who stalk and kidnap Otto. And so are Helping Hand's arch-rivals, who careen into the plot whenever things are getting dull. The car's driven by a nuclear physicist in from Los Alamos, who warned a CHP officer not to look in the trunk (with deadly results). Otto's punk friends find the car while breaking into a pharmaceutical factory, but they're too stupid to keep it. (These three are some of the dumbest criminals ever shown in film, including Kevin Kline's Otto in _A Fish Called Wanda_) Otto finds love, after a fashion, but since this is Reaganesque LA, even his girlfriend has her own motives. ("Otto! What about our relationship?" Otto's reply is a brilliant retort to Cary Grant's last line in Gone with the Wind.)
The film abounds with hilarious throw-away lines, signs, and labels. Several scenes take place in food stores, and all the food is generically labeled. Multiple viewings are required to catch them all; be sure to read all the signs in the windows. Even the TV preacher shows up on several television sets. Repo Man takes its structure from Miller's bizarre rant about the cosmic latticework of interconnectedness, because everything is interconnected, and Miller turns out to be right about all of it by the end. "And flying saucers are... You got it. Time Machines."
Top it off with a TERRIFIC sound track by Iggy Pop, Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, and a host of others from the punk scene and this is one of the best movies ever made.