Repo Man
R1 - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (21st February 2006).
The Film

Harry Dean Stanton strikes me as a very bizarre individual (even before I viewed the interview on this DVD, see below), he seems like the quiet type that is reclusive and occasionally comes out to make a movie every now and then. Kind of like Marlon Brando only not fat, not insanely crazy and eccentric and certainly not dead. So reading the synopsis of Repo Man I wasnít really surprised to see Stanton was in it. It sounds like something right up his alley. Widely considered as one of Americaís finest acting talents Stanton has spent the last 30 year proving himself yet it seems like not many people have listened, relegated to bit parts now, in the early 70ís and 80ís this guy was in one acclaimed picture after another ("Kelly's Heroes" (1970), "Alien" (1979), "Escape from New York" (1981), "Paris, Texas" (1984) and "Pretty in Pink" (1986) just to name a few). So why donít many people in the mainstream know who this guy is? I guess maybe he had a really s**t publicists, that or he never cared for fame just making a good flick. Pair him with Britainís punk director Alex Cox and the then rising star Emilio Estevez (I never thought Iíd write a sentence like that before) in a film about repo men and alien devices in the trunk of a car and youíve got one very different, weird and confusing film. Yet itís also ultimately entertaining, even though a lot of the 80ís references and statements are lost on me (a lot, but not all), well can you blame me? I don't really remember the 80's since I was a child, I did most of my growing up in the 90ís.
Repo Man tells the story of Otto (Emilio Estevez) a street punk whoís recently lost his job as a stock boy at the supermarket, when one day he is recruited to help steal a car for a repo man, Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) although at first he doesnít really know heís helping out a repo man. Turns out heís pretty good at it and soon enough heís got a new job repossessing vehicles for the company that Bud works for. He eventually gets thrown in head-fist into the cutthroat world of repo men. Meanwhile someone has (I assume) stolen a car, its contents include some kind of alien death device in the trunk that basically disintegrates anyone that looks at it. In an attempt to find this vehicle the government issues a reward to all the repo men in the area of $20,000 for anyone that finds and repossess the car. This of course sparks a rivalry between all the repo men to find this mystery vehicle.
Repo Men is not a particularly great film; its original release was mostly ignored yet over the years it has gained an audience on Video, Laserdisc and now on DVD. It has been discovered by many people and means something different to the many fans of this film. Knowing very little I was wasnít expecting much and thatís what I got, I was also confused at the filmís end. I think trying to explain this film is a futile effort; it would be similar in asking someone to describe a David Lynch film. But while Lynch can be overly confusing to the point of frustration, Repo Man is confusing but very entertaining and nowhere near frustrating. I enjoyed the silly characters, especially Bud, who else but Stanton could play a guy who you felt like is hiding many secrets but seems like someone youíve know for years? This is basically His film, Estevez fills in now and then but Stanton takes over the show. This film also feels like a portal into another time that seems very alien to me, the 1980ís, a time of bad hair, bad clothes and the emergence of synth-pop and also the peak of crude punk music. There are many touches in the film that takes us back to this time that many would wish to forget. I was also intrigued at the many statements this film was trying to make about were we as people and consumers are headed (especially with the generic brand products).
Iím still not quite sure what to make of this film, but I was entertained and this disc will sit proudly on my shelf.

Video

Presented in the filmís original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this anamorphic widescreen image is very good for its age. The image is generally sharp, however some scenes that take place at night are a little soft and some colors bleed a little (especially reds, which canít really be helped that color tends to bleed when used intensely). Aside from the minor red color bleed other colors hold up very well, skin tones are balanced but occasionally verge on looking slightly orange. Blacks are bold and shadow detail remains consistent. Overall itís a very good transfer for what is basically a low budget cult film, it would have been easy to release this film with an average transfer and dump it on the shelves but Universal took some time to create a fine product.

Audio

This release includes two audio tracks, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track as well as the filmís original English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track, something that will likely please purists. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its 5.1 track. Dialogue is clear and audible and presents no problems that I can detect. There is some activity in the surround channels but overall I was a little disappointed with the mix as it lacked depth, for a punk sci-fi flick that replies on music and effects the sound was largely centered on the front speakers. Aside form this there were no major problems with the track.
Optional subtitles are also include in English for the hard of hearing as well as French and Spanish.

Extras

First up we have a feature-length audio commentary by writer/director Alex Cox, executive producer Michael Nesmith, casting director Victoria Thomasand cast members Sy Richardson, Zander Schloss and Del Zamora. I found this track very enjoyable, the light-hearted nature of the participants made for a rather amusing listen. There are many topics covered here, including the diffulities the filmmakers had to overcome while making this film, as well as the casting and location shooting. Some aspects regarding special effects are touched on, but generally the group fondly remembers their experience on the film and occasionally joke around.

Next we have the Up Close with Harry Dean Stanton featurette which runs for 21 minutes 19 seconds. In what is essentially an interview clip Stanton discusses various topics that includes this character and memories from the filming of this movie, he also sheds light on this career, pre-destiny and nihilism. He seems like a very strange individual at first then as the interview progresses you realise this guy is crazy ass nuts, but in the kooky kind of way and not the Iíll knife you were you stand, b*tch! kind of way. Itís a very odd yet overly entertaining clip, fans of the film and the actor will certainly get a kick out of this.

Next is the Repossessed featurette, which runs for 25 minutes 15 seconds. This is a conversation with writer/director Alex Cox, producers Jonathan Wacks and Peter McCarthy as well as cast members Dick Rude, Del Zamora and Sy Richardson. This is a discussion between the director and producers about the genesis of the project, problems they encountered while in production as well as the response to the film. The clip is inter-cut with scenes from the film, additionally the cast members Rude, Richardson and Zamora reminisce about their involvement in the film. Overall itís a fairly solid piece that includes an array of informative bits that may be of interest to fans.

The Missing Scenes is a featurette that runs for 25 minutes 2 seconds and covers the cut scenes of the film with a conversation with director Cox and the actual inventor of the Neutron Bomb Sam Cohen. While the scenes play the two discuss the effects of radiation among other things. Itís a very interesting way to present the missing scenes, but certainly work considering the film itself is very bizarre and off center.

Rounding out the discís extras is the film original theatrical trailer that runs for 1 minute 44 seconds as well as a series of start-up trailers that play before the menu and can be skipped by pressing the Menu button on your remote, these trailers included are:
- Brick which runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds.
- Battlestar Galactica Season 2 promo spot which runs for 33 seconds.
- 80ís sitcoms promo spot which runs for 1 minute 1 second.
- The Big Lebowski DVD spot which runs for 1 minute 16 seconds.

Overall

The Film: B- Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: B+ Overall: B

 


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