The youth cult film of 1984, REPO MAN marked the auspicious debut of writer-director Alex Cox, born in Britain and educated as a lawyer at Oxford before relocating to Los Angeles to study at UCLA Film School on a Fulbright scholarship.
Otto (Emilio Estevez) is a disaffected youth in Los Angeles who loses his supermarket stock boy job as the film opens. He spends the night wandering through the punk underground before he encounters Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), who tells him that his wife left her car in a bad neighborhood and offers
Otto $25 to drive it out for him. Otto accepts but is indignant when he learns that Bud lied to him and that he has just helped repossess a car. Later, however, he listens to offers of big money and sets off to learn the trade under Bud's tutelage. Meanwhile, a nuclear physicist (Fox Harris), who
has had himself lobotomized to stop guilt feelings about his work on the neutron bomb, has stolen something dangerous and glowing and put it in the trunk of his 1964 Chevy Malibu. A nuclear device of some sort? The decomposing body of an alien with spectacular powers? Several government agencies
are after the car and offer a $20,000 reward for whoever finds it, a prize that makes it the most sought-after car in the city.
REPO MAN looks at the neon-lit, horizontal sprawl of Los Angeles in a way that no one had before, and a great deal of credit for the film's distinctive look goes to German cinematographer Robby Muller, who'd already distinguished himself via numerous collaborations with Wim Wenders. Cox's
familiarity with the punk milieu is impressive, and he would continue in this vein for his follow-up, SID AND NANCY. The performances vary wildly in their quality, with Stanton and Estevez taking top honors and most of the other characters little more than cartoons. Still, REPO MAN is one of the
most original films of recent memory, with an edge of black humor and punk sensibility--wickedly funny, ceaselessly inventive, and never boring. leave a comment