In the science fiction dystopia of “Repo Men,” directed by Miguel Sapochnik, written by Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner, Sapochnik engages us in the life of an ordinary man whose heart, literally, isn’t in his work. The production is more than admirable, it’s entertaining, prophetic, and, implication-wise, chilling as hell.
Set in a future that looks more likely than un-, where synthetic internal organs are as available as they are expensive, the movie imagines a society where people can replace damaged hearts, kidneys, eyes, once they sign their life over to a firm called The Union. The technology may assure quality and quantity of life, but it comes at a cost: hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most recipients can’t abide by the terms of their contract and so, enter the Repo Men.
Not only has technology evolved, so too has the law: it’s entirely within the mandate of these Repo Men to shoot or otherwise murder the payment-delinquent clients. Business, you know. Remy (Jude Law) does his job well. Along with his partner and childhood chum, Jake (Forrest Whitaker), they hunt, slaughter, and slice their way through their day, bringing reclaimed, blood-soaked organs back to the office where the units’ bar codes are scanned and the account is marked Closed. But what happens when Remy, against his will, gets one of the hearts? What happens when he can’t pay for the thing and becomes one of the very people off of whom he makes his living?
The idea that this could happen doesn’t really make this science fiction but more of a foregone conclusion. Sapochnik approaches the notion with a clear handle on its financial, legal, technological, and moral implications. The reclamations are grisly but they are conceived of as black & white matter-of-factly: we, after all, wanted the damn things; we signed the contract; and, if we can’t pay, well, tough. The gray part of the film – the best part - occurs when Law doesn’t want – never did – the heart and so has to go underground. Law is brutally efficient in the role of a man who, initially, at least, takes pleasure in his work, although it disturbs his wife Carol (Carice van Houten), who wants him to move to a sales job, not for ethical reasons but because he can make more money. Liev Schreiber likewise is delightfully unlikable as Remy’s boss, Frank, a glad-handling company man – the rules are the rules - who doesn’t understand the nuances of the predicament in which his employee finds himself.
Sapochnik’s taut direction relies on setting up the normalcy of Remy’s day job and then flipping it on its head when the hunter becomes the hunted. Remy’s doomed marriage, his love interest with Beth (Alice Braga), a fellow recipient on the run from the firm, his suddenly-complicated relationship with Jake, all make for a fascinating look at a position in which we’d never want to find ourselves. Even the cockamamie plot hiccup that explains the incident that required Jake to get a fake heart doesn’t dilute this haunting story of fake hearts, tested loyalties, and the prospect of immortality on the payment plan.