on December 16, 2002
Repo Man is completely unclassifiable. Funny, dark, biting, thrilling, confusing, action, adventure, it's all there. Emilio Estevez plays Otto, a "white suburban punk" living in LA's sprawl, with a nowhere job that he loses in the film's second scene. When his hippie parents admit they sent his college fund to a TV preacher (We're sending Bibles to El Salvador!), Otto meets Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), a cocaine-driven Repo Man who needs an extra driver. Otto joins the firm and soon learns the Repo Code; Bud's version (You see, a Repo Man gets himself INTO tense situations), and the other regulars at Helping Hand Auto share their philosophies too. Light finds Bud's view tedious but is willing to handle shoot-outs when he's not reading parodies of Scientology (Diuretix), Miller seems completely neuron-fried (The more you drive, the less intelligent you are), and Oly is along to make a four-pack. (Did you notice the four experienced Repo Men are named after beers?) Let's go get a drink, kid!
Multiple plot strands at first seem unrelated, but bind together closer and tighter as the film moves along. Otto and the other Repo Men are on the lookout for a 1964 Chevy Malibu, with a $25,000 bounty. So are some creepy FBI agents, who stalk and kidnap Otto. And so are Helping Hand's arch-rivals, who careen into the plot whenever things are getting dull. The car's driven by a nuclear physicist in from Los Alamos, who warned a CHP officer not to look in the trunk (with deadly results). Otto's punk friends find the car while breaking into a pharmaceutical factory, but they're too stupid to keep it. (These three are some of the dumbest criminals ever shown in film, including Kevin Kline's Otto in _A Fish Called Wanda_) Otto finds love, after a fashion, but since this is Reaganesque LA, even his girlfriend has her own motives. ("Otto! What about our relationship?" Otto's reply is a brilliant retort to Cary Grant's last line in Gone with the Wind.)
The film abounds with hilarious throw-away lines, signs, and labels. Several scenes take place in food stores, and all the food is generically labeled. Multiple viewings are required to catch them all; be sure to read all the signs in the windows. Even the TV preacher shows up on several television sets. Repo Man takes its structure from Miller's bizarre rant about the cosmic latticework of interconnectedness, because everything is interconnected, and Miller turns out to be right about all of it by the end. "And flying saucers are... You got it. Time Machines."
Top it off with a TERRIFIC sound track by Iggy Pop, Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, and a host of others from the punk scene and this is one of the best movies ever made.
on August 23, 2001
Every decade, there seems to be a movie that defines the angst of the culture and the subculture, the collective feeling that something is wrong with the establishment. To call this zeitgeist is misleading; these films don't reflect the spirit of the times as much as they somehow tap into the opposite - they manage to create an all-around sense of unease about the state of the world. In the 1960s, it was The Graduate and the bombshell look at the end. For the 1990s, Fight Club identified many things wrong both with pop culture and those acting in rebellion against it. For the Reagan-saturated 1980s, the distinction falls squarely on Alex Cox's debut film Repo Man. In one of his first roles, Emilio Estevez plays Otto, a street punk who loses his job and college savings in the same day due to misunderstandings and television preachers. At the end of his rope financially and mentally, he agrees to make a quick 20 bucks by helping experienced repo man Bud (Harry Dean Stanton). Realizing the potential to make a good living, and an "intense" life in his new job, Otto signs up with the crew and becomes a repo man. On the way, he meets an unusual woman (Olivia Barash) whom he rapidly falls in lust with. When word comes down the wire that there's an enormous commission out on a 1964 Chevy Malibu, Otto and all the other repo men set out to look for the car with the huge score. What they find in the trunk is so unusual, it will change everything - EVERYTHING.
What makes Repo Man so unique is the obvious satirization not only of regular, and in this case conservative Reagean-esque, culture, from the "John Wayne was [gay]" speech to Bud's trashing of Russia, but the send-ups of punk culture (Let's go do some crimes! Yeah, let's get sushi and not pay!) Otto is the everyman in every sense of the word, as he - like us - realizes that no matter what culture he tries to be a part of, he never fits in, and those strains of culture are so rife with stupidity and hypocrisy that he no longer wants to belong. Like The Graduate and Fight Club, Repo Man also refuses to supply a stock answer, instead making the audience question instead of spoonfeeding them. Plus, it's roll-on-the-floor funny, with some of the best oneliners since Evil Dead 2 or Terminator 2. Alex Cox made Repo Man while still in film school, and he basically admits it's little more than a trumped-up student film. The lack of budget is obvious at times, but the killer screenplay and direction more than make up for that slight fault. As usual, the movie looks excellent on Anchor Bay's DVD; the sound and video are as clear as you can ask for, with a remixed 5.1 audio track to boot. There's a great commentary track with Alex Cox, some castmembers (sadly, no Harry Dean or Emilio), and some crew; it's a lot like a Kevin Smith commentary, with everyone sitting in one room, having a great time talking about a great film. There are no other extras to speak of, unless you buy the collector's tin (which does not look like the normal Repo Man cover - it looks like a California license plate, with Repo Man on it). The collector's tin has the soundtrack on CD and a booklet about the movie with a little comic in it. Unless you are a major fan or must have the best of the best of the best edition, there's no need to buy the more expensive version, but if you want it, you'd better get it quick, because at 30,000 copies, it'll be gone before you know it.
I would definitely check this movie out if you can, and would recommend buying it to anyone who asked.
on October 9, 2001
I assume if you are even reading the reviews of Repo Man- Special Edition Dvd, you love this movie.
On to the Special Edition Packaging.
The first thing you have to do is LOWER your expectations. It comes in this cheezy metal box, like a holiday cookie tin. The lid has a graphic of a California license plate that says appropriately enough Repo Man, and Oct 2002 where the date goes on a license plate. It is not embossed or anything that might make it cool. The rest of the box is unremarkable. On the unpainted bottom is a sticker saying what number you have in the limited edition. I have 08512/30000, it is just a sticker.
Inside the disapointments continue. The 24 page book is a minimilist tribute to a great film. There is not very much information of interest, and only a few good photos. You don't need these photos if you have movie. Then there is a 5x7" postcard of the movie poster with chapter info on the back. The dvd and the cd come in 2 disc cd case with no cover. Just a dvd with part of the movie poster silkscreened on it. and the cd with
the 11 original sound track songs on it. Time, >38 minutes. There is no individual packaging for either.
There is nothing in the packaging that makes this special.
The picture quality is excellent. The sound quality is excellent.
There are little to no extras on the disc. This get frustrating as one version of the trailers shows a snippet of a scene where Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) is beating the hell out of some phone boths with a sledgehammer. In another snippet from the same trailer the repo wives look like the may be at the office, or something that is not in the film. Yet, the extras have NO extended scenes or deleted scenes. To make matters worse the commentary discusses a made for t.v. version of the film that was radically different from the version they are talking about. So I keep thinking I want to see these scenes. If they are hidden on the dvd anywhere I cannot find them. I thought a special edition would have more extras.
Buy this special addition because you love this movie and you love the soundtrack and you want to own them. Do not buy this for dvd extras or cool packaging, you will be sorely dissapointed.
on June 16, 2005
First off, let me say that I LOVE this movie. There is nothing else out there like it. It is the first movie about Nothing, long before Seinfeld and Napoleon Dynamite came along.
But actually, it's not about Nothing. It's about a quest. A quest to find the Holy Grail of car reposession: A Chevy Malibu.
So why 2 stars? Because this DVD SUCKED, that's why. The widescreen was pretty good, and the audio was okay. But other than that, where were the captions or subtitles? And more importantly, WHERE WERE ALL THE GREAT SCENES I REMEMBERED?
I never saw this in the theater. I grew up watching reruns of it on TBS. I got to hear all the repeats of "flip you" and "melonfarmer" in all their dubbed glory. When Leila swears at Otto at the end, my memory is her saying, "You Nerrrrd!" Not that-other-word.
That's okay. I can deal with more cussing. In fact, I like it. But what makes me want to say "Flip You" to the makers of this DVD is that we are missing all these great scenes:
1. The crazy guy in the car babbles on and on to Kevin about various things, including Lorna Doone cookies. Kevin's response is, "Lorna Doones? I love Lorna Doones!" From this DVD - GONE!!!
2. Bud gets pissed at a phone booth for no apparent reason and goes and gets a baseball bat or crowbar or something and beats the thing to smithereens. Otto wants to get in on the action, so he picks up the bat and starts doing some smashing of his own, with some nice maniacal laughter. Bud has to make him quit and leave. This scene - GONE!!!
3. Otto goes home again to see his hippy parents. The Good Reverend on TV is going on and on of course. I remember him saying these specific very cool lines, "Suffer the fires of eternal damnation! Now these are the end times..." Otto's parents are covered in spider webs. He walks up to the TV and turns it off. They give him a kind of lost look, and he gives them a disgusted look, and finally he just walks out the door with nothing else said. This Nice Scene - GONE!!!
4. Seems like the "Bad Man", Lite did a lot more talking on the movie I remember. Seems like he said some stuff about "break the bone", like in the song. Where did it show that in this DVD? GONE, that's where!!!
5. There was one scene with the crazy guy in the car where he is talking either to Otto or Kevin, and he runs his fingers through his hair. As he runs his fingers through his hair, a handful of hair falls out. This was really gross but crucial to us fully understanding how far his radiation poisoning had progressed. Where is this scene, I ask you? GONE!!!
6. I'M SURE THERE ARE MORE SCENES, BUT WHERE ARE THEY??? GONE! GONE, I TELL YOU!!!
And why? I wouldn't mind this if this was just a regular DVD, but this supposed to be the "Special Edition" DVD! When are you movie execs going to figure out that we consumers don't care about gimmicks like tin-cases shaped like license plates? We want SUBSTANCE, not PACKAGING.
I haven't listened to the commentary track yet, but everybody has good things to say about it so I'll give a star for that at least.
Now, on to the soundtrack. This is a great soundtrack, but it too left me disappointed. I recognized the songs in it, but where was the main Repo Man track? You know which one I mean! I wanted to hear the lonely guitar solo that comes up while Otto walks the streets alone. That awesome track that comes up while the bum is sobbing on the side of the street and Otto just keeps on walking past, ignoring him as just part of the wasteland that is Urban USA. Where was that incredible soul-transcending track by the Plugz? We get a taste of it on the final track, but nothing like the main track. How disappointing.
The bottom line: If you've gotta have Repo Man, it's a good buy. But I'm still holding on to my much-worn VHS recording of the cable version. I suggest you do the same.
on April 1, 2006
Alex Cox sends up the Reagan era in a black comedy about car reposession. With a stellar soundtrack and lots of quotables, Cox is the precursor to the Coens and Tarantino. Cox sends up everything but the kitchen sink-suburban life, televangelism, nuclear fear, UFO conspiracies, commercialism, self help cults, and more I'm sure I missed here. Straight up lo-budget classic if you have a taste for irony and absurdity.
on July 9, 2013
This review is specifically for the Criterion blu-ray, not the movie itself (which is excellent, nuff said).
I believe I first saw Repo Man on closed circuit television in the midwest -- closed circuit being the predecessor to cable television, at least where I was from. Because of this -- I remember parts of Repo Man that I haven't actually seen in years. When I bought the Collector's Edition dvd -- the one in the license plate tin -- those scenes weren't there either, so hey, maybe it was all a dream.
No, plate of shrimp, it wasn't a dream. The Lorna Doone discussion was cut as well as several other scenes. They appear in the deleted scenes section of this release. This Criterion blu-ray is wholly approved by Cox, so, it's not like anyone pulled a fast one on him. Heck, he guides the audience through the deleted scenes. Here we have a George Lucas scenario; do we respect the artist's vision, or do we cry like babies because we're not seeing the exact version we remember?
For me, that's a tough call to make. As an artist myself I reserve the final word on what I create. If Alex Cox were into pandering to the demands of viewers -- Repo Man would never have been made in the first place. I want to respect his vision, but frankly, I want it both ways. They include the modified-for-television version on this disc, why not an uncut version?
If memory serves me -- a deluxe edition of Apocalypse Now includes a smattering of deleted scenes. You can watch these individually, or you can tick an option to watch the entire film, deleted scenes included. The quality suffers momentarily with some of these scenes -- but it's worth viewing in this way.
So, that's why I'm giving this only four stars -- because it could have been just that much better. But, my complaints are minor overall. They did a great job on restoration, the sound is great -- the packaging is lovely -- the interviews are good. This is a nice, solid reissue. It's totally worth owning. Until the next version comes out.
on August 16, 2000
Of all the low-budget films to come out of the Eighties, Repo Man, Alex Cox's dark cult comedy about Eighties urban sprawl and alien paranoia, is one of the better ones. Emilio Estevez stars in one of his earliest roles as Otto Parts, your modern apocalyptic teen up to his armpits in drugs, sex, and parental neglect. He soon finds a way out through Bud (Stanton), an ace repo man, who gives him a job and teaches him the ways of the car repossessing trade. The two wander through the guts of L.A. in search of a '64 Chevy Malibu, priced at 50 thousand dollars, and run into a cast of bizarre street characters: feds, girls in distress, a lobotomized nuclear physicist, and really, really dumb criminals. Estevez gives one of the best performances of his career, honing his acting skills as a punk white boy just in time for his role in Coppola's The Outsiders, released later that year. Cox, who wrote and directed the film, creates a strange but hilarious view of our culture, a brilliant satire on modern society.
on May 4, 2013
I have always been fascinated by this film, it is truly a masterpiece of original film making in this country that I think is long gone and will never happen again. I have owned the vhs copy for years and it recently stopped working, so I started checking amazon and saw that they just came out with the blu ray criterion collection and I bought it right then and there. The cover of this movie will get you to buy it just looking at it, and I was even more mesmorized when I looked at it in person. Someone took some time and effort to develop the art on this jacket and the booklet it comes withbecause their just amazing to look at.
The movie is mastered in 2k and the resolution of the picture is amazing, really crystal clear, so clear I had to get some windex and clean the little bit of dust I saw on the tv screen, it was that clear. This blu ray has alot of special features, mostly with alot of the actors from the film doing commentary and a couple of segments of how they got casted for the movie which was interesting. The only actor I didn't see or hear on the speacial features section was Emilio "Auto" who is MIA somewhere, who knows. I haven't seen or heard a peep from Emilio in years, he should of at least made an attempt to reunite with the cast or something. The disc also has the tv version of the film if your a little offended by the language in the movie, or were used to seeing it on tv back in the day. Audio commentary is good, I enjoyed hearing some of the actors imputs on scenes throughout the movie. There is a real interesting sit down talk with Harry Dean Stanton which was really inspiring to here his input on consiousness and how everything is predestined. Harry is such a cool classy actor you don't see any actors like him anymore, there all a bunch of pretty boys who can't act worth you know what. Anyways if you a fan of Repo Man buy this copy and you will love it.
on March 26, 2001
Alex Cox's feature film debut, "Repo Man," is an incredibly wild exercise in crisscrossing genres. On one hand, it's the story of a disillusioned young punk (Emilio Estevez) who winds up in the car-repossessing business; on the other hand, it's about aliens from space, weird things in the trunks of cars, Area 51 paranoia, and even consumer disgust. In a way, its blatant and effortless desire to be different makes it to the 1980s what "Fight Club" was to the 90s.
"Repo Man" manages to be hilarious without resorting to immaturity and truthful without being preachy. Cox's filmmaking technique is truly guerilla, with a "pull-out-all-the-stops" style that pays huge dividens in its charming low-budget way. The acting is top-notch (Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton are a duo with chemistry to spare), and the many weird events that conspire keep things unpredictable and interesting.
Which brings me to Anchor Bay's limited edition tin. Being a video company I've known and respected (yes, it sounds lame) for its top-notch remasters of underrated Italian horror/gore films from yesteryear, I was surprised to see them releasing "Repo Man." But I was impressed with the faux-letterbox presentation and the overall package; an amusing booklet with asides from the cast and crew is included, and also the movie's soundtrack (one of the best I've heard). The extras (talent bios, trailers, etc.) are a bit sparse but still impressive. As of this writing I haven't listened to the audio commentaries, but will in the near future.
Even if you don't have a DVD player, "Repo Man" plays out just as well on video. If you're in the mood for a movie from an era when 'Hollywood' wasn't about turning profits and marketing teens and actually took risks, this is for you.
I put this eighties cult classic right up there with Blazing Saddles (1974) and Dr. Stranglove (1964) as one of the best satires ever to hit the silver screen. No exaggeration: this is one bizarre and one very funny flick. Seeing it again after almost twenty years, I gotta say, it lost nothing.
Emilio Estevez stars as Otto Maddox, a head-strong and slightly naive ex-supermarket stock clerk and sometime punk rocker. He's kicking a can down the street when up pulls Bud, "a repo man," played with a fine degeneracy by Harry Dean Stanton, who asks him if he wants to make ten bucks. (Otto's reply is memorable but not printable here.) When he learns that Bud just wants him to drive a car and not...uh, never mind, he bargains it to twenty-five bucks. When he finds out that Bud repossesses cars for the "Helping Hand Acceptance Corporation," he is sorely offended. But when he realizes how intense the life is (and how bleak his other employment opportunities), he becomes a repo man himself.
Meanwhile there's J. Frank Parnell (Fox Harris wearing a demonic grin and weird glasses with one black and one empty frame) driving a "hot" '64 Chevy Malibu. "You don't want to look in the trunk, Officer," he tells a cop who pulls him over on a desert highway. By the way, the map under the opening credits shows the action of this film beginning somewhere on old Route 66 in New Mexico, suggesting alien mecca Roswell territory perhaps, but most of scenes were clearly shot in LA, and the desert scene just mentioned was probably also shot in California as evidenced by the Joshua Trees in the background.
What director and scriptster Alex Cox does is combine urban ghetto realism with bizarro sci-fi shtick. He adds a fine punk soundtrack including the title song from Iggy Pop with a brief appearance by the Circle Jerks, and wow are they appropriate, but you have be a punker or a 15-year-old to really visualize their moniker. The supporting players, Sy Richardson as Lite, a black cat repo ace, and Tracey Walter as Miller, a demented street philosopher, really stand out. I also liked the girl repo person with attitude (Vonetta McGee).
The real strength of the movie, aside from probably the best performance of Estevez's career, is in the street scene hijinks, the funny and raunchy dialogue, and all those sight gags. My favorite scene has Otto coming home to find his parents smoking ... on the couch zombie-like in front of the TV listening to a Christian evangelist while he scarfs down "Food" out of a blue and white can from the refrigerator. I mean "Food" is on the label, period. The Ralphs plain wrap (remember them) are all over the sets, in the convenience store, at the supermarket, bottles of plain wrap whiskey and plain wrap "Tasteetos," plain wrap beer and plain wrap cigarettes.
Some other good shtick: the dead rat thrown in the car with the woman that doesn't accomplish its purpose; the money in the presents that Otto throws out the window busted open by the tires of another car for us to see and drool over; the "I left a book of matches" line that diverts Otto's ... friend pumping gas; the pepper spray; Miller by the ashcan fire contemplating the disappeared from the future and "the lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything" (trippy, man); and the punk criminal act of "Let's go get sushi and not pay." And Otto's clean pressed white dress shirt and the tie--I love the tie--as Lite tells him, "Doing my job, white boy."
See this for the authentic eighties street scenes and for my UCLA Bruin buddy (by way of Oxford) director Alex Cox who dreamed the whole thing up. Only an Englishman could really see America authentically.