Starring: Harry Dean Stanton, Emilio Estevez
Written and Directed by: Alex Cox
Studio: A Universal Pictures
Video: 1.85:1 Enhanced for 16:9 Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Extras: Audio Commentary by writer/director Alex Cox, executive producer Michael Nesmith, casting director Victoria Thomas, and actors Sy Richardson, Zander Schloss and Del Zamora; “Up Close With Harry Dean Stanton,” an interview; “The Missing Scenes,”an analysis by Alex Cox and Sam Cohen, the real inventor of the neutron bomb; “rePossessed,” a conversation with Alex Cox, Jonathan Wacks, Peter McCarthy, Dick Rude, Del Zamora and Sy Richardson; Theatrical Trailer.
Length: 93 minutes
Repo Man has all the ingredients of a cult movie: counter-culture lifestyles, pseudo-science, UFOs, drug use, guns, torture, sex, comedy, and philosophical dialog. The spirit of this movie is summed up in a scene with the movie leads, Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton. They are driving along talking and debating about life and the world (do people in Russia have bills to pay?), while Estevez fights falling asleep, and Stanton looks suspiciously at Estevez and declares, “I don’t want no Commies in my car!” He hesitates and adds, “No Christians either!” The irreverent dialog, borderline characters, and improbable plot elements careen along the narrative flow of this movie like out-of-control cars speeding on a rain-drenched highway until they all converge into an improbable and spectacular car-crash of a conclusion.
Among the various, simultaneous plotlines are Otto (Emilio Estevez) and the Repo Men, which follows Otto’s journey from disenfranchised punk to working stiff. Also, there are Otto’s three punk acquaintances/criminals, who spend most of their time robbing convenience stores and stealing cars. Then there is the scientist who drives around with a mysterious cargo in his trunk that tends to vaporize the unwary. Following on the trail of the scientist are a collection of Men in Black and hazard-suited clean-up specialists. All these characters cross paths with each other throughout the film.
More than anyone else in the movie, this is Harry Dean Stanton’s movie. He plays his character, Bud, with absolutely no restraint and a pedal-to-the-metal sense of heightened energy, which is not to say that he overacts in this role. Quite the opposite, he plays it with just the right balance of weariness, humor, and passion, throwing himself into the dialog and interacting with the other characters and scenes with controlled abandon. It’s amazing to watch him work. Emilio Estevez plays Otto with occasionally enough attitude to fill the screen. He has a way of squinting at people and subtly curling his lip that communicates the anti-social, anti-establishment punk posture of his character without any dialog at all. But when he’s throwing beer cans and screaming his frustration at the world, we get a sense of the depth of his disillusionment with the world and his desire to find his own place in it, even when it turns out that his place in the world isn’t in this world at all.
This DVD is complemented with a number of extras that are worth watching, like “rePossessed”and “The Missing Scenes, “although in this last documentary watching director Alex Cox solicit the opinions of neutron bomb inventor Sam Cohen concerning what footage was finally included in the movie is vaguely mystifying and seemingly pointless – though it is totally in keeping with the anarchistic attitudes of Repo Man. The interview with Harry Dean Stanton in “Up Close with Harry Dean Stanton” is perhaps a bit too close. It’s a confusing, rambling and nihilistic diatribe from Stanton that demonstrates why some actors are better represented by their movies and not by themselves. It does, however, have a certain car-wreck fascination to it.
All in all, Repo Man has retained most of its power and charisma. Newcomers to this movie may be surprised at how small and low budget it really was, but this movie was made with a lot of heart. Repo Man is a film of the 80s, slightly nonsensical on occasion, but it takes the viewer on an exciting ride that’s quite unforgettable and always entertaining.
– Hermon Joyner