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Jude Law and Forest Whitaker as body-part repossession agents in Repo Men.
Jude Law and Forest Whitaker as body-part repossession agents in Repo Men.

Repo Men

A story that could have made a great comedy is an utter failure as a futuristic action adventure.

This is not a sequel to Alex Cox's weird and wacky 1984 hit Repo Man, unfortunately. Having said that, when Cox tried to cash in on the kudos of his hit directorial debut with the 2009 misfire Repo Chick, the studio behind Repo Man stopped him from referring to the earlier film - probably a good thing, given how badly Repo Chick turned out.

Repo Man was a commentary on Reagan's America, but as a parable for the current credit crunch, Repo Men is sadly a non-starter. It stars Jude Law and Forest Whitaker as agents who specialise in repossessing artificial body parts instead of homes or cars from those unfortunate enough to fall behind with their credit repayments to The Union - a heinous organisation headed by Liev Schreiber in a surprisingly poor performance.

Yet, like the debts that are never paid, the fun set-up of Repo Men promises much and fails to deliver. Law showed with David Cronenberg's 1999 sci-fi adventure eXistenZ that he has a liking for roles set in dystopian futures where people are little more than laboratory rats. Here, as the would-be novelist Remy, he provides a zesty voiceover in which he explains the mechanics of his day job, accompanied by a montage sequence packed with pop violence.

Remy is faced with a dilemma when his wife (Carice van Houten) gives him an ultimatum to get a job in sales or she will leave with their son. But Jake (Whitaker), Remy's partner and best friend since school, is dead set against this idea and tries to put a spanner in the works when Remy decides to do one last job. Based on the screenwriter Eric Garcia's book Repossession Mambo, the plot starts off as a wonderful mix of Stephen Frear's Dirty Pretty Things and the buddy-buddy cop thriller Lethal Weapon, with a dose of domestic disharmony thrown in for good measure.

But instead of going down the off-beat comedy route that the premise almost yearns for, it turns into yet another run-of-the-mill futuristic action adventure. Remy finds himself the object of a Union contract and then inexplicably joins forces with a decidedly unexciting fellow victim, Beth (Alice Braga). There are some nice set pieces and the first-time director Miguel Sapochnik shows some talent in character and plot set-up. However, the futurist dystopian city is yet another example of a poor man's Blade Runner and the action sequences look as though they were found on Guy Ritchie's cutting room floor.

Women have a raw deal, with Van Houten's part severely underwritten and Braga playing on her looks and not much else. Keeping interest bumbling along throughout is the relationship between Whitaker and Law, although this runs out of steam as we head towards their inevitable confrontation. The sting in the tail echoes the work of the Fight Club director David Fincher, but here serves only as confirmation that this is a film that spiralled far out of Sapochnik's control.

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