Writer/Director Alex Cox has created a mixture of punk sci fi and trashy urban pre-apocalyptic wasteland. The film is populated by oddball characters and the punk rock soundtrack fits the film like a glove.
Repo Man is a film with a very loose plot, but many different characters who weave in and out, crisscross and provide a lot interesting episodic humor.
Otto and his dork friend Kevin.
A group of guys that repossess cars in Los Angeles.
A man driving a Malibu with some radioactive thing in his car trunk.
A government agency tracking the thing in the truck.
A group of punk criminals.
A rival gang of Latino repo men in a convertible.
And a repo lot worker who strangely might know more than anyone.
You might think, this film is too weird and unappealing to a mass audience, but you’d be mistaken. The film does have rough edges, it is sometimes loud and the humor bawdy, but it is also perceptive and charming. Cox gives the film enough weirdness that you start to look for things that don’t really belong but are quite entertaining.
Repo Man mainly follows punk outlier Otto (Emilio Estevez), a non-conformist young man without a mission in life. He falls into car repossession after he is fired from his job in a grocery store, along with his nerd-without-a-clue friend Kevin. Otto doesn’t have a better alternative, so he overcomes his distaste for the repo profession when he discovers it pays well and the life is pretty interesting.
Otto is paired up with a couple of veteran repo-men. One, Bud, played by Harry Dean Stanton, is a strung-out and burn-out, repo man who knows his way around the work. The other repo man takes no crap and is likely to shoot first if provoked.
Running through the film is a Chevy Malibu driven by Dr. J. Frank Parnell who seems on his last leg from the radiation. Everyone seems interested in getting their hands on the Malibu and those who try end up as a pair of flaming boots after they look in the trunk, which might contain an alien. The government wants the Malibu and are attempting to locate it, offering a $20,000 reward, and anyone who has even the remotest contact appear on their radar. Eventually, Otto comes into that orbit.
Parnell picks up Otto and they drive until the ill Parnell dies. Otto takes the Malibu back to the repo lot. The car is stolen and the now glowing car is chased through L.A., until finally showing up back on the repo lot. Everyone is interested in the car for their own reasons, but it is one of the repo employees, who seems to understand the notion of aliens, gets in the car and flies it into the sky.
The film garnered very good reviews, including 98% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Here are a few examples:
“Repo Man comes out of left field, has no big stars, didn’t cost much, takes chances, dares to be unconventional, is funny, and works.” – Roger Ebert
“It’s very entertaining, and though it’s rude in an R-rated way, it has the good taste never to promise more than it can deliver.” – Vincent Canaby, New York Times
“Repo Man has the type of unerring energy that leaves audiences breathless and entertained.” – Variety
Repo Man is a guilty pleasure. The story behind the film is fascinating, which you’ll find on DVD extras. You are never sure where the story is going but you see these oddballs come in and out of the film. You know the story revolves around the fate of the Malibu and whether Parnell is going to make it to the end of the story.