The Film (5/5)
Otto (Emilio Estevez) is a "white suburban punk" who is taking a break from school, and is drifting aimlessly through the L.A. punk scene of the early 80's. He has recently lost his job stocking the shelves at the local grocery store, and his girlfriend cheated on him with one of his friends leaving him and committing herself to a life of crime. Needless to say things aren't going well for Otto.
One day while Otto is wandering the streets, Bud (the always brilliant Harry Dean Stanton, Alien) a Repo Man cons Otto into repossessing a car. Otto has a bit of fun with the one-off job, but is angry when he discovers what he REALLY did. That being said, he quickly sells out and becomes a Repo Man himself with Bud as his mentor.
While out repossessing a car, Otto ends up meeting a UFO Conspiracy Theorist, who is on the lookout for a mad-scientist driving a Chevy Malibu, the trunk of which allegedly contains the bodies of 4 dead aliens. The FBI are also out on the hunt for this car, and put up a reward of $20,000 to see it retrieved. This sets Bud, Otto, and every repo man in the city after the prized vehicle through a set of truly bizarre situations.
Punk movies existed before Repo Man, and a few could be considered classics in their own right (Rock and Roll High School, Suburbia), but Repo Man might actually be the first punk film that could be classified as a cinematic masterpiece. Unlike many of it's punk film contemporaries Cox's film does not use punk as a superficial cosmetic device like some earlier films tended to do. Rather, Cox infuses his young punk characters with a sense of depth and honesty not really seen in punk cinema until this point.
Repo Man also works wonderfully at paying homage to films of the past (the MacGuffin of the film is a HUGE shout out to Kiss Me Deadly), and also successfully combines genres. Repo Man is a unique cinematic cocktail that perfectly balances 50's sci-fi cinema, film noir, and the coming-of-age film all while layering the film with social and political subtext regarding life in Reagan's America. The most interesting thing about the subtext is how simple it really. The film gives the initial look at a group of outcast (Repo Men, Punks) rebelling against the society they feel betrayed them. This is fairly typical for post-60’s cult films. It’s the subtle nod that this is just an illusion of freedom and rebellion, yet these supposed rebels are still part o the system they are allegedly rebelling against.
This is a film with a cast grounded by excellent performances from the top down. Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez make an absolute classic pairing, and play off each other extremely well, and it seems like every single character of this film no matter how big or small is played to perfection by the eclectic cast. I know Repo Man isn't Shakespeare, but for a film about punks, and dead aliens in a Chevy Malibu the film could have very easily played into B-Film acting territory, and what we get here are some truly excellent and dynamic performances all around.
Repo Man alongside such contemporaries as Dan O'Bannon's Return of the Living Dead, and John Carpenter's They Live is as near as perfect cult experience as was to come out of the mid-80's. It's blends a great film-noir-ish scenario with a sci-fi premise, in the guise of a coming of age film to create something fun, unique, and truly poingant, and eterally memorable.
When Criterion gets a movie such a Repo Man it's always a time to rejoice, and of course this reporting back on Repo Man itself is absolutely no different. Criterion has created a spectacular Blu-ray transfer for 1:78:1 MPEG4 AVC encoded transfer for Repo Man , while bringing it spectacularly into the HD era. The fine detail on this disc , especially in close-ups is absolutely fantastic. Repo Man is not the most colorful film, but the very Earth-y tones that compromise the film really are reproduced nicely in this film, and such moments such as night skys and sunsets looks really amazing. The black levels on the film are very solid, flesh tones are accurate, and of course, there is a healthy level of film grain present on the transfer.
Repo Man has been awarded a very good LPCM 1.0 mono track. This is a very good track. The music that makes up the films classic soundtrack comes through the speakers nice and clear, dialogue comes through crisp and clear, and everything is mixed and balanced nicely. I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
Criterion has gone all out with their Blu-ray release of Repo Man from the packaging (Seriously the cover is the best I've ever seen given to this film), and beyond. The disc kicks off with the alternate TV version which cuts out certain moments deemed unfriendly for TV stations. It's framed at 1:33:1 for the TV aspect ratio that was popular at the time. We then get a commentary track ported over from the 1999 AB disc featuring Alex Cox, Michael Nesmith, Victoria Thomas, Sy Richardson, Zander Schloss, and Del Zamora. We get a 2005 interview with Harry Dean Stanton called Harry Zen Stanton, a recent interview with Iggy Pop about his contributions to the soundtrack. We then get a few interview piees, there is one called Plate o' Shrimp which features Keith Morris (Black Flag, Circle Jerks) with Dick Rude, Olivia Barash, and Miguel Sandoval as they discuss the production and process of making the film. We then have a 2005 discussion called Repossessed with Alex Cox, Sy Richardson, Peter McCarthy, Jonathan Wacks, Del Zamora, and Dick Rude who discuss with film from the ground up. The disc is rounded off by deleted scenes, and trailers. There is also an amazing, extensive booklet of liner notes and comics (by Alex Cox).
Repo Man could be considered one of, if not the definitive cult classics of the 80's. The A/V restoration from Criterion is brilliant, and so is the package of extras provided. Needless to say this film comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!