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Murder Slim Review: REPO MAN

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What's so great about REPO MAN? It's accepted as a "cult" film, but it's not due to any easily defined source. Alex Cox has his fans, but his only other movie of real entertainment and quality is the excellent WALKER. Equally, you'd be hard pressed to find a movie that blends so many genres without being a complete mess. REPO MAN is like a Joe R. Lansdale mojo piece, somehow managing to fuse sci-fi, comedy, horror, satire, crime, action and punk into one hell of an enjoyable movie. It's right up there with THEY LIVE as something that consistently makes me smile.

REPO MAN follows Otto (Emilio Estevez), a supermarket worker by day and a pissed-off hardcore punk by night. Early on, Otto quits his job in a spectacular scene with his asshole boss and idiotic co-worker (played by Circle Jerks bassist Zander Schloss). He ends up falling into a job as a repo man, repossessing cars that folks have missed payments on. And - through a series of weird coincidences - he eventually ends up in a Chevy with a top secret alien thingamajig in the trunk.

I think I've figured out why REPO MAN works so well. It's because - despite that seemingly lurching story - it never short changes you on great scenes. They rattle along every few minutes or so. Whether it be a pisstake of punk slam dancing, or Otto's escape from a gunfight, or a repo man explaining why "John Wayne was a fag," or the fucked up guy who's initially in possession of the alien thingamajig. From the opening where a cop is vaporised to the final neon-bright "lift-off," REPO MAN is so packed with terrific ideas that it doesn't give you chance to care how ludicrous everything is. Of course there are many other movies without any dull moments, but you'd be hard pressed to find one with so many wildly eye-opening ones.

Undercutting that ludicrousness is Alex Cox's social commentary. He can lay on satire too thickly in some of his movies, but REPO MAN perfectly laces it with comedy. Judging by the brilliant punk soundtrack, Cox is a fan of the movement... but he's also happy to joke around with it. Seeing The Circle Jerks playing lounge music and Otto grumbling "Man, I used to like these guys" is a hoot.

REPO MAN also takes sideswipes at mainstream society. There are a couple of dead-looking supermarkets filled with deliberately over-simplified labels like SOUP and CORN. Meanwhile, Otto's parents' goggle-eyed obsession with TV has developed so far that they don't take in a word Otto says. At least weirdness gives Otto some colour and adventure... so you can understand why he's so desperate to rebel.

Hell, I forgot, I haven't even mentioned Harry Dean Stanton is in the movie. And, once again, he's acting out his career-long performance art piece The Weird and Wonderful World of Harry Dean Stanton. What more do you want?

You do need to be of a certain mindset to enjoy REPO MAN. Its low budget will put off a few idiots, especially pernickety fuckers who obsess over the quality of special fx. There will also be those who find the story much too weird and unfocussed. Shit, go with the flow. Don't ask yourself why any scene is happening in REPO MAN and just enjoy it. Things work out in the end.

But, of course, you guys read Murder Slim Press so you'll be fine.

REPO MAN is one of the movies that are the embodiment of the passionate difference that we enjoy. And, to the savvy viewer, you'll see it realises all of its loopy ambitions. Store up all those positive Christmas feelings filling you right now for another two months. Then give the filmmakers their deserved pat on the back by buying the blu-ray when it comes out in February.

Review by Steve Hussy