A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 366 – Repo Man

Repo Man – March 1st, 2011

I know I mentioned it yesterday, but I still find it weird to think that we’ve been at this for a year. And what’s really great about it is that I’ve seen so many movies that I’ve always meant to see and never gotten around to. And not just stuff that we already had lying around the apartment. I mean, last night’s movie? Yes, when it came out we meant to see it. When it came out on DVD we meant to see it. We bought it and never put it in. That was the original purpose of this project, to justify owning the movies we own. And then we started buying more and collecting other movies I’d meant to see but which we didn’t own yet. Like this one. A cult classic I must have heard references to a million times and never watched myself.

Now, I’d always been told that this was a weird movie, and make no mistake, it is. It’s about a cadre of repo men, a couple of car thieves, some punks and a van full of quasi-governmental UFO chasers trying to track down a Chevy Malibu that might have aliens in the trunk. Weird is a rather inadequate word for all that. And I think part of the movie’s charm is that it could have been some slick and utterly cheesy sci-fi flick, but it’s not. It’s awkward and gritty and idiosyncratic in just the right combination. There’s something about the tone of it, with the off-hand strangeness of the world it’s set in and the characters who inhabit it, that reminds me of Buckaroo Banzai. It’s all just so matter-of-fact and yet off-kilter. I like that.

The movie follows Otto, a punk kid turned repo man. Otto starts out kind of aimless and really, despite the repo gig he remains aimless. He doesn’t seem to really enjoy the work. He gets shot at, beat up, chased. He doesn’t seem to like most of his coworkers who are, admittedly, a bunch of jerks much of the time. And his old friends are running around town holding up liquor stores and stealing drugs. His parents are stoned all the time and obsessed with some televangelist. Why should he care about anything? Why would he? And really, the same could be said about most of the people in this movie. They all seem to be looking for something to give a damn about, except Leila, a girl Otto meets while he’s driving a car back to the lot. Leila cares about aliens.

The movie bounces back and forth between the various groups involved. The Chevy Malibu changes hands several times, starting with a mysterious man wearing a pair of glasses with one blacked out frame, then the Rodriguez brothers grab it, then the punks grab it from them, then the guy gets it back from the punks, then Otto manages to get behind the wheel, then his coworker, Bud, nabs it. It goes all over, and something is very strange about that car. It’s overheated inside, and the trunk? Well. You don’t want to look in the trunk (in a similar way that you might not want to look inside Rincewind’s Luggage). The UFO chasers show up in the background over and over. Men in white hazmat suits carry off bodies. The punks are all over the place. There’s always something in the background. Someone always shows up from earlier in the movie. It’s oddly insular in the way that small towns are.

The feel of the movie is more than a little surreal, with the generic food and drink everywhere (beer just labeled Beer and the like, including a tin of Food – Beef Flavored) and all of Otto’s beer-named coworkers (Miller, Bud, Lite). It’s like everything’s just off from the center. A little out of focus. A little self-conscious about itself. So even though it’s bouncing around from faction to faction and all, it never quite loses sight of being a movie about a Chevy Malibu and aliens. You can’t make a serious movie about that. It has to have some level of awareness about itself and this movie hits that note just perfectly. It hits every note. Like a John Cage piece. Odd and not played on the instruments you expect and probably unsettling and a little gimmicky but fun all the same.

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March 1, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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