I must confess I spent a significant portion of this movie’s runtime bewildered. I kept waiting for the film’s world and narrative arc to come into sharper focus. I finally locked in with the film’s weird rhythm in the last half hour and really started digging it.
That said, there are a lot of scenes and beats that don’t seem to serve much purpose, with a philosophical bleakness that keeps weighing down any sense of joy and fun that dares to emerge. The film embraces a punk rock ethos and mindset, but really only the “fuck everything” portion of punk rock.
I suspect if I were to watch this again, I would get a lot more out of it. It does a lot of things that I tend to really love in movies: idiosyncratic dialogue and characters, unique language and ethics, shaggy hangout vibe of semi-lovable losers, and a gripping, world-shattering ending.
Repo Man lives in a genre-less void; or, rather, an anything-goes genre salad. It’s a dark comedy for sure, with some great satire on ’80s consumerism and yuppie-ism. There’s some conspiracy thriller with government agents, and certainly some alien sci-fi. The way the streets of LA feel like a lawless wilds, it also has tinges of an urban western. And with the gray morals, obtuse mystery, and distinct argot, there’s at least a bit of neo-noir in its DNA. Truly a one-of-a-kind experience.
The cast is good all around, with no real weak links. Emilio Estevez plays the humorless lead with earnestness and just the right amount of self-doubt. Harry Dean Stanton is perfectly charismatic as his mentor, Bud. And the ensemble is filled out with solid character performances of varying levels of unhinged.
Lastly, and most surprisingly to me, the film is quite a joy to look at. For what could have been a dingy and lifeless cityscape, there’s lots of color and energy, lots of humor developed from the visual layout of scenes, and a charming cadence to the editing that adds to the slightly elliptical feeling of the film overall. (I’ve learned since watching that cinematographer Robby Muller is well-regarded for his camerawork in urban settings, and it definitely shows here.)
Very Good (6/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.