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Repo Man

USA | 1984
Directed by: Alex Cox
Written by: Alex Cox
Harry Dean Stanton
Emilio Estevez
Tracey Walter
Olivia Barash
Color / 92 Minutes / Rated R

Repo Man poster


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Repo Man

  By Arto

"…See, an ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations.
Repo men spend his life getting into tense situations."
- Bud

So what does one walk into Repo Man expecting, exactly? How does a reviewer like myself go into explaining how comically bizarre and unorthodoxly entertaining of a trip it is? I suppose the best way to describe such a film is to say it's as if you took a needle full of mescaline and injected it into a Coen Brothers film. Nah, that still doesn't do enough justice in explaining, or at least attempting to explain, the hallucinatory, nonsensical odyssey that is Repo Man.

Alex Cox's semi-autobiographical feast of outlandish settings and beyond eccentric characters helped cement the director as a cult movie hero of the 80's. Perhaps his most critically acclaimed film was Sid and Nancy, the depressing, drugged-out biopic look at doomed romance and self-destruction. Repo Man, however, took on an entirely different approach, and I honestly have to say it's my favorite film of Cox's that I have had the pleasure watching.

Emilio Estevez plays Otto Maddox, a fiery, young punk rocker. Otto has become constantly distant with his fellow gutter-asshole friends. Despite being all about the punk lifestyle, Otto has been feeling alienated and out of place; as he appears to be growing out of his former way of life, despite his hot-headed attitude still intact. All on our first day of meeting Otto, he manages to get fired from his shit job, walks in on his girlfriend sleeping with one of his best buds, and finds out from his spaced out, hippie parents that they blew all his graduation money on sending a surplus of bibles to El Salvador.

Otto has no choice but to find a new sense of direction. He finds this new belonging in a chance meeting with the smooth and cool-headed Bud, played by the great Harry Dean Stanton. Bud manages to catch Otto off guard one day while he's strolling along and convinces the young slacker to help him with a favor, promising he'll make a few bucks in the process.

So what's the favor, exactly? Otto has to pick up a car he is unknowingly stealing and follow Bud's ride to a city car depot, resulting in the car's owners frantically chasing after the ride. Our young hero is obviously getting off on the rush of this new profession.

Convinced that the young punk is a natural, Bud reveals himself as an automobile repossession agent, introducing Otto to his co-workers of the happily titled "Helping Hand Acceptance Corporation". At first, angered by being suckered into working for what he believes to be "The Man", Otto rejects them, openly insulting Bud and his co-workers.

Eventually Otto decides to give the job a chance. Throughout the film's first two acts, he gets to hear insights and personal philosophies regarding the job through different shifts and confrontations with Bud, as well as various other repo men and co-workers in HHAC. Finally, the rookie cozies up to the recklessly fun, violent and adrenaline fueled way of life of the repo man, and ultimately discovers what may be his true calling.

That, of course, was all nothing more than introduction into the warped and twisted world of Alex Cox's cult classic. Repo Man contains some of the most bizarre, abnormal and overall strange subplots that continue to thicken as they either omit or strengthen the essence in which the film begins with, all while maintaining its same unusual charm it unleashes, from beginning to end. Each time Otto, some various other repo men, and a wide assortment of other eccentric characters, are seen constantly getting into some amusingly, outlandish and truly weird situations. If you enjoy films where the story is continually escalating and changing into consistent abnormalities, with characters and dialogue that, at times are incredibly much, much more out there than usual, then I couldn't recommend this film enough.

The film is loaded with unusually memorable scenes, including one of the greatest awkwardly intimidating moments involving Otto professionally "threatening" someone who's car he is about to be repossessed. My personal favorite part of the film is when Miller, the junkyard attendant, converses with Otto over a discussion involving all the "weirdness" in the world that is truly bizarre. Miller's lines in this scene are some of my favorite lines in the entire film. The cast’s ability to adapt to the absurdity of their characters worked exceptionally and fittingly.

Harry Dean Stanton, in my opinion, stole the film as Bud, the repo man whose connection with Otto quickly evolves into a sort of Master and Apprentice relationship. Once Otto begins the new way of life, he must first hear the guidelines that Bud lives by as a repo man, AKA "The Repo Code"; another memorable point in the film. My personal favorite character, however, is Miller, obviously. I love that guy. He's like one of those people you bump into and become friends with who is just so different from your other pals; the kind that, no matter how much you enjoy their company, you can't always help but wonder what planet, or dimension they really came from.

There is much more to Repo Man, especially in how more and more absurd and insane it becomes (I'll go ahead and warn ahead of time; at some point, there is extraterrestrial involvement), but explaining just how ludicrous and illogical the film increasingly becomes would be quite a task to analyze in such a simple review. I'll just leave it at this: if you have an open mind toward 80's cult films, surrealism and/or just love watching movies that are anything but normal or typical, then go give this one a watch. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

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