Industrial Entertainment // 2011 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ike Oden (Retired) // February 16th, 2011
"Someone microwaved a dog? What, did it need drying?"
In the not-too-distant future, millionaire heiress Pixie (Jacylyn Jonet, Searchers 2.0) is cut off from her inheritance by her disapproving, old-money family. To make ends meet, she becomes Repo Chick, a one-girl repo crew who takes back everything from cars to trains in the name of the high-powered banks than run the country. Under the tutelage of cowboy repo man Arizona Gray (Miguel Sandoval, Jurassic Park), company owner Agua (Robert Beltran, Eating Raoul), and disaffected grease monkey Lola (Rosanna Arquette, Pulp Fiction), Pixie takes repossession to new levels of success. Her ambition might not prove enough when she finds herself trying to seize a runaway train carrying a dangerous WMD that's been hijacked by vengeful, golf-hating vegan terrorists. Will the Repo Chick prove resourceful enough to save herself, the train, and the city of Los Angeles?
I feel like writer/director Alex Cox (Sid & Nancy) has sort of fallen off the cinematic map. His debut Repo Man promised a unique, anarchic, and absurdist creative vision sure to birth numerous cult classics. He did, bringing us everything from Sid & Nancy to Straight To Hell, but he hit a bit of a dry patch as the Clinton decade began (though he did retain a writing credit on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Barring some nifty DVD re-releases and a couple of indie films that went unnoticed, I haven't heard much of the guy in the past decade.
In 2011, he's finally back with Repo Chick, a spiritual sequel to Repo Man. I'm happy to say that Cox's ear for dialogue and knack for interesting characters has remained intact throughout the passing years. What hasn't is the gritty style that made Cox's early films as memorable and unpredictable as the characters that occupied them.
Repo Chick is shot almost exclusively against green screen backdrops, allowing the filmmaker to create his own, flash-animated style sets around the actors. In the process, the film displays some of the most annoyingly cheap looking art direction in recent memory. One assumes Cox chose the green screen approach to create a shallow, candy coated world in the vein of his blonde-bimbo protagonist, Pixie, but the finished effect is inconsistent, dated, and downright hard on the eyes. This is the same sort of "We can do it for cheaper in post" indie-approach that mars countless wannabe cult films, using CGI as a crutch rather than a storytelling tool. I wish I could say the whole film wasn't ruined in the process, but said art design made me want claw my eyes out after the first thirty minutes.
Beyond the grating, green screen world it occupies, the rest of the film is actually okay. At its core, Repo Chick is going for a very dark political satire, but feels very predictable in terms of hot-topic pokes and jabs, with targets like corporate bail-outs and environmental trends feeling lazy at best. Despite an on-the-nose approach, Cox's dialogue is snappy and his jokes are mostly amusing (fans will be pleased by more than a few callbacks to Repo Man).
It helps that Cox has such a versatile cast at his disposal. Jacylyn Jonet makes a huge impression as the titular character, whose grit and cunning far outweigh her Paris Hilton-stylized character. Miguel Sandoval, Robert Beltran, and Rosanna Arquette are great fun to watch as the rest of the repossession crew, downplaying their characters' wackiness in a way that effectively heightens the utter goofiness of their misadventures. The rest of the cast isn't quite as even, with Xander Berkely (Tapeheads) and Karen Black (Nashville) putting in quick cameos as Pixie's family that feel hammy at best, while Cox regulars like Chloe Webb (Ghostbusters II) and Del Zamora (Robocop) bring natural quirk to their minor characters.
Repo Chick came to me as a screener disc courtesy of Industrial. Filmed on a Red One camera, the transfer is clear, though lacking in a lot of fine details and depth usually associated with the Blu-ray format. The 5.1 True HD sound mix is unspectacular -- quick to show off the film's annoying techno-infused soundtrack (that will certainly make you miss the punk rock influence of his earlier films) but lacking any sort of complex channeling or polish. Extras are slim too, featuring only a dull featurette and a trailer. The whole package makes me wonder why Industrial is bothering to release the film as a Blu-ray at all if it won't do anything with the format.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Industrial Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Alex Cox's Blog