Criterion // 1984 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // May 7th, 2013
There's this lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything.
Repo Man is a film that I love to talk about, but strangely -- disturbingly, maybe -- when I sit down to write about it, the words just don't come. Plenty has been written about Repo Man -- including an excellent essay/evaluation by DVD Verdict's Brett Cullum, reviewing the Collector's Edition -- and that's as it should be. It is one of the most casually perfect movies ever made, one of the truest documents of an era without actually being about said era.
By rights, it shouldn't even come together, this story of a disaffected, middle-class, faux-punk named Otto (Emilio Estevez, Young Guns) who, despite initial disgust at the idea, finds himself working as a repo man, repossessing cars from those unwilling or unable to pay their notes. Mentored by Bud (Harry Dean Stanton, Two-Lane Blacktop), Otto finds himself on a quest for a particular car: a 1964 Chevy Malibu.
In fact, it seems everyone's looking for the Malibu, which has a ridiculously inflated value, though not everyone is really too curious as to why. But some people know, or think they know.
It has to do with aliens.
In lesser hands, this all might have turned into a self-conscious and smug stew, but writer/director Alex Cox instead offers up a singular vision of cool. The first of Cox's "punk" films -- Sid and Nancy and Straight to Hell being the other two -- Repo Man hits its jagged notes with an astounding clarity. It's a film of quirks and idiosyncrasies that doesn't come off as quirky or idiosyncratic; everything follows a tortured logic, and every character is an individual.
Cox offers a punk sensibility -- with an essential, era-defining soundtrack that includes Black Flag, Iggy Pop, the Circle Jerks, and the Plugz -- and infuses it with such made-in-America tropes as car culture, alien invasion, government paranoia, and a knowing nod to Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly. It's wall-to-wall quotable dialogue and bizarre set-up, powered by a focused but unforced energy that never flags. It is arguably the greatest film ever made about dimwitted punks and aliens.
It is required viewing.
And that's all I'm going to say.
Criterion's release of Repo Man (Blu-ray) features exemplary tech. The image here is very strong -- vivid colors, solid blacks, excellent depth, with a fine, filmic grain. The PCM mono audio track is clear, clean, and free of distortion and hiss.
Repo Man has had a number of DVD releases, and this Criterion edition of Repo Man (Blu-ray) pulls supplements from the earlier releases, adds some new stuff, and offers the best representation yet of this cult classic.
* A commentary with Alex Cox, producer Michael Nesmith, casting director Victoria Thomas, and actors Sy Richardson, Zander Schloss, and Del Zamora, recorded in 2000.
* "Repossessed" -- A discussion with Cox, producers Jonathan Wacks and Peter McCarthy, and Zamora, Richardson, and Dick Rude; from 2005.
* "Harry Zen Stanton" -- Harry Dean Stanton expounds on...well, all sorts of stuff; from 2005.
* "The Missing Scenes" -- Cox, Nesmith, and neutron bomb expert Sam Cohen watching and discuss deleted and alternate scenes; from 2005.
* "The TV Version" -- Clocking in five minutes longer than the theatrical version, this one is cleaned up (obviously) and contains alternate scenes.
* "Iggy Pop" -- A 2012 interview with the legend, whose music is featured in the film.
* "Plate o' Shrimp" -- Interviews from 2012 with actors Dick Rude, Olivia Barash, and Miguel Sandoval, and Keith Morris of the Circle Jerks.
Plus, there's the expectedly excellent Criterion Illustrated Booklet, this one featuring an essay on the film by Sam McPheeters, "The Repo Code" (an illustrated production history) by Alex Cox, and a 1987 interview with an actual repo man.
A smart movie about stupidity, Repo Man well earns its cult status, and this edition from Criterion is as close as it gets to "definitive."
Review content copyright © 2013 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* PCM 1.0 Mono (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Alternate Version
* Deleted Scenes