Friday, October 18, 2013
Written and directed by Alex Cox, Repo Man is the story of a young punk rocker who works with a repo man where they find a car that carries something mysterious in its trunk. The film is a mixture of sci-fi with elements of humor and commentary on culture clashes set in the Los Angeles punk rock scene. Starring Harry Dean Stanton, Emilio Estevez, Tracey Walter, Sy Richardson, and Olivia Barash. Repo Man is an extraordinary yet whimsical film from Alex Cox.
The film explores the world of men who repossess cars from those who have not paid their bills as one of them in Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) takes in a young street punk named Otto (Emilio Estevez) to be his protégé as they do their jobs where Otto learns the code of being a repo man. Yet, something strange is happening around Los Angeles as Bud, Otto, and their co-workers try to find a 1964 Chevy Malibu that is worth $20,000 as they have to deal with a rival repo company as well as street punks, and other strange forces who all want the car. Yet, there is something mysterious in that car where it could be something alien as Otto tries to make sense of everything while Bud wants it so he can gain financial independence.
Alex Cox’s script showcases a world that is kind of wild as it’s set during the early 1980s in Los Angeles where the L.A. punk scene was thriving and Otto is part of that world as he feels unhappy by his lame job at the supermarket and the fact that his hippie parents gave away his college money to a crooked evangelist. An encounter with Bud would give Otto something to do while finding something that is sort of dangerous and make some good money off of it. Yet, Otto would also encounter lots of strange things during his job including a young woman named Leila (Olivia Barash) who believes that aliens are coming to Earth as she and a mysterious driver named J. Frank Parnell (Fox Harris) are being tailed by scientists and government officials who want to know about what is in Parnell’s trunk.
The film features a lot of strange narratives that includes a trio of punks robbing places and stealing things, Otto getting his taste of the repo life, and dealing with rival repo men as they all want this 1964 Chevy Malibu that features a $20,000 reward. Many of which includes some humorous moments as well as some dark moments that would force Otto to look into what could be a bleak future as Bud becomes frustrated with the fact that his fellow workers don’t want to live the code that he likes to live by. It’s a film that definitely features a lot of genre-bending themes from the buddy-film to elements of sci-fi adventure where it could’ve been uneven and messy but Cox manages to find a way to bring it all together in its third act where everyone tries to go after the car.
Cox’s direction is very stylish for not just the way he presents early 1980s Los Angeles where it’s kind of messy and wild where there’s some poverty and such. Yet, it has this energy that is just intoxicating to watch from some of the scenes of Bud and Otto stealing cars where there is that sense of thrill to some of action involving the 1964 Chevy Malibu. Cox uses a lot of straightforward compositions as well as wide shots to play out the look of Los Angeles including some intimate moments to showcase the chaos of the L.A. punk scene. Cox’s direction also plays into the world of the repo business where many of the people Otto work with are men who have no qualms taking things away from people as it’s all about pay your bills or we will take your shit. Otto eventually learns the hard way about these rules as he would have a few bad encounters where things do crazy but he gets the job done.
Cox would also fuse the film with an element of sci-fi and horror as there is that element of mystery of what is in the trunk of this 1964 Chevy Malibu and who ever opens it pretty much gets burned to death. Even as the many rivals Bud and Otto have will all steal the car but will notice that something isn’t right where it becomes clear that there is something in the car. Even as Cox creates some scenes and characters that all play into that element of suspense where it would create this amazing climax involving the car as repo men and scientists face off to uncover the mystery of that car. Overall, Cox creates a very imaginative and exciting film about repo men trying to get a mysterious car for $20,000.
Cinematographer Robby Muller does brilliant work with the film‘s very colorful and evocative cinematography with the look of the daytime exteriors scenes to the gorgeous use of colors and lights for the interior and exterior scenes set at night. Editor Dennis Dolan does amazing work with the editing to play up the rhythm of the action and humor as well as slowing it down to play into the more suspenseful moments. Art directors J. Rae Fox and Lydia Burbank, with set decorator Cheryl Cutler, do terrific work with the look of the repo place Otto and Bud work at to the bars and clubs Otto and Leila hang out at. Costume designer Theda DeRamus does nice work with the costumes as it’s mostly low-key from the shirt-and-tie to the look of the punks.
The visual effects by William Cruse does excellent work with some of the visual effects from the way the people get burned after seeing the contents in the trunk of the Chevy Malibu to the look of the car when it glows late in the film. Sound editor Warren Hamilton Jr, does superb work with the sound to play up some of the atmosphere of the clubs as well as some of the sound effects such as gunfire and such to play into the chaos of L.A.. The film’s music by Tito Larriva and Steven Hufsteter is fantastic for its mixture of punk and low-key electronic music to play out its suspense and energy while music supervisor Kathy Nelson creates an exciting soundtrack that features music from such punk luminaries as the Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, Fear, and Iggy Pop doing the theme song for the film.
The casting by Victoria Thomas is great as it features some appearances from the punk band the Circle Jerks as a nightclub band, the Untouchables as a gang that Otto gets into trouble with, Dick Rude as Otto’s former punk friend Duke, Miguel Sandoval as Duke’s dim-witted friend Archie, Jennifer Balgobin as Otto’s former girlfriend Debbi, Zander Schloss as Otto’s former supermarket co-worker Kevin, and Del Zamora & Eddie Velez as the rival repo men in the Rodriguez brothers. Fox Harris is terrific as the very strange J. Frank Parnell who drives around the 1964 Chevy Malibu while Vonetta McGee is excellent as no-nonsense secretary Marlene. Susan Barnes is superb as the mysterious Agent Rogersz who has a silvery glove in her left hand while Tracey Walters is hilarious as the kooky Miller who always have some strange philosophies as he often intrigues Otto.
Olivia Barish is fantastic as Leila as this young woman with a fascination for aliens has her meeting Otto unaware of the trouble they’re in. Sy Richardson is brilliant as the very uncompromising Lite who carries a gun and does things to steal with no sense of morals at all. Emilio Estevez is amazing as Otto as this young man who is a point in his life where he deals with an uncertain future only to find thrills and such in being a repo man as he would later deal with some chilling consequences. Finally, there’s Harry Dean Stanton in a tremendous performance as Bud as this very no-nonsense guy who lives a certain code while always finding ways to get whatever he wants as he later deals with changing time and the prospect of being independent as he and Estevez have great scenes together in displaying the chemistry between old and young ideals.
Repo Man is a dazzling film from Alex Cox that features top-notch performances from Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez. The film isn’t just a funny and weird sci-fi comedy but also a very imaginative one that reveals men’s desire to find their way while dealing with strange forces. In the end, Repo Man is a phenomenal film from Alex Cox.
Alex Cox Films: Sid & Nancy - (Straight to Hell) - (Walker) - (El Patrullero) - (Death and the Compass) - (The Winner) - (Three Businessmen) - (Revengers Tragedy) - (Searchers 2.0) - (Repo Chick)
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