Get ready, all you pre-teen Emilio Estevez fans, for this new special edition of Repo Man from Focus Features. I had no idea this film had such a following, and after viewing, I can’t seem to make sense of it. Not always sure of its genre, Repo Man is a film oddity that mixes drama, comedy, and goofball science-fiction with a meandering plot and questionable performances to get one of the strangest and most forgettable B-movies this side of Bride of the Monster. I was joking about a pre-teen Este…ez, but he is still very young, and not at all convincing in the role he’s playing here. I wonder if Estevez looks back on this film with the embarrassment one has for an old yearbook photo. He probably should. The great thing about this film, however, is you get to see Harry Dean Stanton at the top of his game, and he was an actor of incredible talent, who could have brought artistic credibility to a porno film if he so desired. Unfortunately, cheesy ‘80’s effects inferior even to Alf and an all-over-the-place plot pull away from the merits Stanton brings to the production.
The story begins with a roguish teen outsider, played by Estevez, who can’t seem to get any respect, or anything good out of life, no matter how hard he tries. One day, Stanton’s character takes a liking to him and decides for no reason that makes any sense he would make a great “repo man.” Voila, instant protégé. Meanwhile, there’s a scientific madman on the loose carrying a neutron bomb in the trunk of his old Malibu, and frying any overly curious person to a crisp with it. Whether it’s a highway patrolmen or a street punk kid, no one is immune from its effects. Along the way, there are crazy conspiracy theorists, street gangs, and a rival team of repo men on the prowl just waiting to heat the pot to a confusing boil. The sad thing about this film: it’s very entertaining in its simplicity, and very frustrating and dull in its complexity. The repossession scenes are immensely entertaining, and I’m sure a good film lurks somewhere within those confines. But Cox wants to make too many films at once and, in the end, does more harm than good.
Focus has done a terrific job with the 1.85:1 anamorphic presentation with flawless color rendering and deep black levels. Cheesy as the effects are, they do look vibrant in this transfer. However, the radiating car and the neutron bomb attacks take away from such vibrancy, and almost make you forget how clear and sharp the image is. Good technical rendering – bad technical film.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is pretty intense. From the opening hard-edged musical number that accompanies the credits to the loud, boisterous gunfights and neutron bomb attacks, Focus has done this disc up right. Dialogue levels are solid, as is bass. My only complaint is how dated the musical soundtrack is, but that’s also part of Repo Man’s charm. There is also a mono track provided.
The Missing Scenes is the best feature on the disc. It’s a unique way of showing off deleted scenes, many of which are better than the film itself. The most interesting aspect of this feature is the running interview director Cox conducts with Sam Cohen, the inventor of the neutron bomb. I could have used more of that than what I got, but I’m still happy with these amusing excerpts. The second best feature is Up Close with Harry Dean Stanton, a rare interview with the phenomenal actor that covers his craft and outlook on life. In addition to these, there is a feature-length audio commentary with several members of cast and crew, and a reunion special of sorts entitled Repossessed.
I understand the cult exists that loves this film for what it is, and I respect that. Looking at the 108 reviews on Amazon, and the astounding near-perfect rating, I’ll be the first to admit maybe I’m the one with the problem. But that’s what makes a cult film a cult film – it doesn’t connect with everyone. What I will concede: this is a fine edition and a lot more than many other movies can ever hope to achieve. Good A/V and a nice bag of extras make this a must for fans.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Up Close with Harry Dean Stanton
- The Missing Scenes