*Repo Men (R)
Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Hollywood Interquest, Tinseltown
Over the bloody mayhem of the opening minutes of Repo Men, calm and collected Remy (Jude Law) ponders the famous paradox known as "Schrödinger's cat" — how can a thing be alive and dead at the same time? As far as Remy is concerned, it's nonsense.
And he would think so. Remy cuts people open and takes out their organs for a living and does not ask questions — at least until he lifts the lid of the cat's box.
After years in service of a futuristic health care industry (run by the deliciously evil Liev Schreiber), Remy starts to see how the whole game is rigged. They charge organ transplant wait-listers more than the dying masses will ever earn, plus endlessly compounding interest, eventually enslaving the recipient or, worse, killing them when Remy takes the organ back.
By comparison, America's real-life bankruptcy endgame doesn't seem so bad.
An awakening comes when Remy's nearly killed on the job and returns to consciousness to find that Schreiber has installed a mechanical heart, making Remy an unwitting client for life. He has a family to support, so he continues work as a repo man but has, ironically, lost the heart to do so. Without that income, he quickly finds himself in default, and the company's army of repossessers (including Forest Whitaker as Remy's best bud) are after him.
As if that weren't enough, Remy takes on a charity case in the form of a drug-addicted lounge singer (Alice Braga). And, because of his former job, he's not welcome even to take shelter among his fellow hunted.
Repo Men delivers fast-paced action with a surprising nod to the social commentary of science fiction's past. Some troublesome plot holes do pop up — someone tell this futuristic Big Organ corporation that you can't collect from a dead man — and the film's stock caricatures seem to be going through the motions too often. But there are also wonderful sequences of unexpected insightfulness, including one exchange with a famous musician (Wu-Tang mastermind RZA) where we see the first signs of human emotion — reverence, even— from Remy.
Repo Men also boasts one of the most tongue-in-cheek sex scenes since Watchmen, with the added benefit of statement and sexiness. (It's no coincidence that blood and anguish take on an aura of orgiastic sensuality only in the confines of Big Organ headquarters. If anyone gets off on tormenting others, it's the ones who profit from pain.)
Director Miguel Sapochnik, working from a novel by Eric Garcia, keeps the winking health care parable operating with a firm finger on the populist-revenge pulse of today. One bravura sequence, in which Remy and his newfound partner attempt to infiltrate Big Organ, captures everything that's great about cinema's ability to satiate the public's bloodlust.
The pair make it through a hangar of sterilized scientists creating the robotic guts and on to a hallway filled with bloodthirsty killers with giant knives ready to slay at will to protect the company's interests. Who are these people? They're middle-aged, button-down-wearing bankers.
Sapochnik's take on the "too big to fail" mentality may be one of the most crowd-pleasing moments at the movies this year. After all, even Michael Moore couldn't rouse enough rabble to think of taking a hacksaw to big business' throat.