Repo Man (January 22/06)
With its rambling pace and thoroughly absurd premise, Repo Man is a prototypically divisive cult film that will either leave viewers marveling at its inventiveness or scratching their heads in frustration.
It's clear right from the outset that writer/director Alex Cox is going for a vibe of ironic detachment, infusing the film with a punk sensibility that's initially intriguing but ultimately tiresome. The meandering narrative becomes more and more chaotic and inexplicable as the film progresses, as Cox throws in one superfluous character or subplot after another. Of course, these are precisely the sort of elements that the film's fans would undoubtedly point to as the central reason Repo Man has held up over the years (an arguable statement, to be sure).
Emilio Estevez stars as Otto Maddox, a rebellious punk who inadvertently finds himself drawn into the repossession business after a chance meeting with Bud (Harry Dean Stanton). Bud, a veteran of the repo industry, quickly takes Otto under his wing, much to the chagrin of his fellow repo men and women. Meanwhile, a crazy nuclear scientist (Fox Harris) is driving around town with a mysterious, vaporizing light emanating from the trunk of his car.
Repo Man's effective opening half hour - which details Bud and Otto's tentative yet respectful mentor/protege relationship - is eventually replaced by an aura of blatant weirdness, a situation that's exacerbated by Cox's relentlessly off-kilter directorial style. The filmmaker's screenplay isn't even remotely as cool as he clearly believes it to be, and is peppered with "clever" bits of arbitrariness (ie the last words of a dying punk: "I blame society. Society made me what I am.")
It's not difficult to see why some folks have embraced Repo Man; the superb performances (Stanton, in particular, is quite effective) alone almost elevate the film to something watchable. But the bottom line is that the movie, more often than not, just comes off as strange for strangeness' sake.