If you’re going to make an actual film about repo men, this is how you do it.
Alex Cox injected just enough intrigue, weirdness and fun into his film about Otto (Emilio Estevez) – a anarchist-type punk that’s completely run out of the little luck he had to begin with. When Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) recruits him to his team of other repo men named after beers he’s introduced to a world of weirdness that begins and ends with aliens.
Cox made his debut with Repo Man. Normally I would talk more about the director’s career at this point, but seeing how this is the only film of his I’ve actually seen, I can’t. I do have my eye on Sid and Nancy and Walker though.
I think what’s best on display from Cox, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, is his contained madness. This is one weird film to think up. And that’s not because it’s the weirdest movie out there. It’s because it walks this line where the weird, a man delivering alien remains in the back of a car, meets an everyday norm, where Otto and Bud sit around repossessing cars for a few bucks. It gravitates around the strangeness of normalcy and the normalcy of strangeness. It’s never fully weird or fully straight faced.
I now like to think that with Otto and Bud we’re given one of the more fun mentor/mentee relationships. Stanton is a screen legend in my mind and like always, he naturally gives Bud the possession of his known rugged, don’t take no shit traits. Estevez is not a legend, but it being 1984, he pulls off the stupid punk phase of Otto’s life with a nice touch. The two together, as Otto learns about the business from Bud, are fun to watch get a long and then not get along. It’s a messy marriage for these two partners.
We can’t forget about Tracey Walter’s legendary cultish performance as Miller, the junkyard prophet. He’s like this supremely burnt out hippy who landed in a junkyard on the coattails of an alien spaceship. His prophecy is enlightening, his point of view is fresh and is statements are weird. He is Cox’s most wonderful character in the entire film and the director knows it.
Cox’s film is also nothing more than a societal statement. It’s clear as daylight and begins with his resistance to use any specific brand products in the film. He did everything he could to make that obvious. Beer cans just say ‘beer’ and food packages just say ‘food.’ The theme, which is present inside a very mindful film the possesses a number of characters that are against the system (anarchists, criminals, activists and so on), is Cox punishing mental material for you to think about as you watch guys get disintegrated because they opened up a trunk that has an alien in it.
Repo Man‘s success as a funny science fiction film blended with other genres is about as unlikely as its concept. We get the weird, we get the themes, we get the message. It all exists inside Cox’s mind and is the number one reason why I want to keep pushing through his films. Well, except for Repo Chick. Right?