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Repo Man is a case study of nihilism, Reaganism, nuclear holocaust, and the ever-growing punk movement of the 1980s from the perspective of eccentric British filmmaker, Alex Cox. There’s not so much a plot as there is a string of events that intersect with each other and ultimately come to a head without any sort of resolution. In the context of another film, this would be a complaint, but in the case of Repo Man, it’s appraisal to the nth degree.
The film is a rotating door of storylines involving a highly sought after 1964 Chevy Malibu, its mentally fried driver, convenience store robbers, government agents, and Otto (Emilio Estevez), the film’s protagonist. Otto is a disillusioned L.A. youth who finds fulfillment and satisfaction in his job as a car repossessor. Under the wing of Bud (the late Harry Dean Stanton), the two and their coworkers steal cars, drink beer (simply labeled on the can as “beer”), snort coke, and have philosophical conversations about UFOs and shrimp.
Trying to find a point in Repo Man is futile. The point is that there is no point. Life and its little coincidences have no meaning, so why should a movie with glowing green aliens have one either? Things happen, one or two people get disintegrated, and the movie ends in a flowing stream of consciousness, feeling more like a fever dream that’s been cut short than the conclusion to a film.
It’s best compared with other sleeper classics like Napoleon Dynamite and This is Spinal Tap, wherein scenes are included, not to drive the plot, but to set up memorable scenarios and exchanges of dialogue that stick with you long after the film is over. There are a dozen lines from Repo Man I can recite in my sleep:
“I had a lobotomy in the end.”
“Lobotomy? Isn’t that for loonies?”
“Not at all. Friend of mine had one.”
“Let’s go do some crimes.”
“Yeah. Let’s go get sushi and not pay!”
“The more you drive, the less intelligent you are.”
The film as a whole makes fun of the atmosphere of the 80s, mohawks and all. Present in the movie are emotionally absent parents glued to a public-access television preacher, the fear of impending nuclear destruction, poverty, drugs, crime, and the angry, misguided nature of the punk wave.
There’s a great “I don’t give a fuck” attitude about the movie in terms of its humorously bizarre pacing, structure, character interactions and plot progression. It glows and oozes rebellion, and it perfectly fits the tone of its subject matter. Breaking the unspoken rules of cinema and getting away with it is no easy feet, but Repo Man accomplishes this in its spontaneous, hilarious presentation of youth angst.
The syrup on this white suburban punkcake is the impeccably curated soundtrack featuring Black Flag, The Plugz, Circle Jerks, Suicidal Tendencies, and the main theme by Iggy Pop.
Repo Man is a sci-fi-buddy-action-comedy trip that’ll take you back to a time when life was pretty intense. This is a joyride you won’t want to stop.