Monday, February 11, 2013

#654: Repo Man

(Alex Cox, 1984)

Alex Cox's first movie is long overdue on Criterion - it's a cult classic that is one of the definitive films of the Reagan era made by a filmmaker with three other Criterions under his belt (he co-wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). It's also extremely strange and really, really funny in a off-kilter way.

The basic story is a simple, timeless combination of the path of a young man becoming a repo man, a sly profile of underground LA in the mid-80s, and a secret alien conspiracy that could tear it all apart. None of that matters a whole lot beyond being used to zero in on the humor that can be drawn out of mainly playing against convention. Cox sends up conventional portrayals of punks with brilliantly awkward dialog ("Let's go do some crimes") and the Circle Jerks doing lounge (the soundtrack here is great, by the way), but holds out most of his bite for capitalism, most notably and impressively with his generic packaging that is the hallmark of the film. There are also some great one-off jokes - one of my favorites is the recording in the hospital hallway that says "Please be quiet in the stair wells."

Possibly the weirdest thing about the whole movie, though, is the Universal logo that opens it - this has to be one of the strangest movies released by a major studio, and I think it's a testament to Cox - and an indication of what was to come with his follow-ups - that this movie exists. It's a shame the director has not managed to stay relevant over the last twenty years - most of his movies these days aren't even available on DVD. Despite his obvious "punk" sensibilities and somewhat dated 80s aesthetics, Cox is clearly a talented filmmaker who must have something left in the tank. Whether he ever finds it again or not, we have Repo Man to remind us of the potential and shine a bit of light on a quirky moment in American history.

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