Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Repo Chick (2011)

I was just getting in to the swing of writing these reviews when life went and got itself in to a great big rush. A mad time of job changes, house movings, 50+ hours a week at work and not even enough time to watch movies.

Initially my fourth review was going to be the Paul Dano/Zooey Deschanel starring oddball indie flick Gigantic but the plans went out the window. Now I bring you Repo Chick instead. Laying in bed this morning finally watching Alex Cox's pseudo-sequel to his 1984 cult classic and all round masterful piece of indie film making Repo Man (do not confuse it with the overhyped Jude Law sci-fi actioner Repo Men released last year) and realised I had almost enough time to write a review for once, so here I am.

I saw Repo Man for the first time a couple of years ago and it immediately became one of my all time favourite movies, funny, imaginative, well written, zany, a five minutes in to the future piece of science fiction cinema that acted as an allegory of modern society, not to mention a very appealing approach to film making. So much like everyone else I was very excited when I found out there was a sequel.

I personally like both posters as advertising for the flick, the bright pink one evokes social memory of all those "strong men with big guns" movies we've all seen: Dirty Harry immediately springs to mind and juxtaposes it with a cute blonde girl dressed all in pink and looking like she's about to play dollies with Buzz Lightyear as Mrs Nesbitt/some male fantasy of slutty school girls. Female centered action movies are few and far between and unfortunately Barb Wire also jumps to mind here.

The second one is clearly a finished article intended for cinemas and DVD covers and whilst looking kinda cheesy and cheap is a very clever piece of art. Again you look at Jaclyn Jonet and think hot girl with a gun but this time she's almost identical to a Fembot.

To synopsisise for you: Jaclyn Jonet is Repo Chick a spoilt rich bitch who is disinherited by her family until she finds a regular job. She ends up working as a repo man for a chubby looking Chakotay from Star Trek Voyager and hunting down an antique train carriage with a $1m bounty on it. An evil scientist is using the train to deliver nuclear weapons to some American city using a gang of Vegan anti-golf protesters as a decoy.

This is probably the moment to address many of the issues that fanboys have had with this movie. It's over 90% green screen and therefore looks cheap, but there's no escaping the fact that it was a very low budget independent movie and as an innovative and resourceful artist Alex Cox has come up with ways to tell a story with what he had to work with. Initially the green screen effect is jarring and obvious but intentionally so, his characters live absurd lives and this is magnified by the green screen. Coupled with his use of miniature towns and partially animated scenes it's easy to see why some people found it difficult to watch but whilst I was saying "What the fuck?" I was also laughing along with it, it's a fun movie.

Jaclyn Jonet is excellent as Repo Chick, her only downfall being she is way too beautiful to play one of those Paris Hilton types. Her character is one of those vacuous "IT girls" who is mean to everyone and lives off of the family wealth trying to make music and fashion. Whilst in real life these people are overly made up cretins whose inner meanness shines through in their pinched facial features Jaclyn Jonet is just beautiful and no amount of method acting, wardrobe and dying her hair could change that.

The character's growth is obvious, as in not too subtle, but the story moves forward at quite a pace for the first half of the film and the dramatic change in the character is grounded within the world of the movie, so it is excusable. We're all looking for something that we can excel at, the confidence and pleasure a person gets from knowing they've found it can lead to dramatic changes in persona and Repo Chick is no different.

The only other real standout performance belongs to Miguel Sandoval, Carlos from the most recent series of Entourage or Treviranus in the Alex Cox directed, Borges written Death and the Compass. A fine actor who is always cropping up in small roles in unexpected places, a man who's screen presence is huge in a small film like this, the camera loves him. In film where not many of the cast play it straight Sandoval is like an oasis in a desert, calm and welcome.

Sure, it was clearly the intention of Alex Cox to have his characters be caricatures but there's no excuse for the performance of Chloe Webb, a woman who has hardly acted on screen in 20 years and seems to be a pet of the directors, which has to be the only reason she got the part cos the word talentless springs to mind.

The characters irritate but they're meant to, Alex Cox doesn't like his audience to just sit back and relax with his movies, they jar and make you fidget, you may be irritated but at least you're not comatose like with most Hollywood films. And the simple fact remains that this is how people actually behave. I've met and seen people like Repo Chick and her entourage and been amazed that they exist, the attitude towards financial gain is a sickening disease that's becoming more and more overpowering in the world and these characters are products of that.


A disclaimer of sorts, an excuse for the use of miniatures, a little bit of fun and the film makers way of telling the audience they are aware that these miniatures look like miniatures and that this is the desired effect.

Its quite possible that if funding had been in place the tiny models would never have even been considered, throw a couple of million at a problem and a real train carriage can appear for example but a movie that criticises capitalist society probably wouldn't go down too well by splashing endless cash on set design. As I said before this is a creative way out of a financial problem, set aside your initial reaction and you might just enjoy it.

I can't deny that I was disappointed by how cheap it looks as I wanted more but I enjoyed myself all the same.

Other reviews and reactions all seem to be from fans of the original disappointed by this effort, the obvious reference to Paris Hilton in the character of Repo Chick condemned, the plot or lack of has been heavily criticised and Alex Cox has been accused of lacking the punky edge and dark humour of the original. In response to these criticisms, which whilst largely justified are possibly ill thought out by disgruntled fanboys, is to point out that 27 years later Alex Cox is no longer an angry punk but he is still angry and has a critical message about todays socio-political climate. In addition consider that modern society is filled with ignorant, shallow people who worship Paris Hilton and others of her ilk and as such basing Repo Chick on her serves as an easily identifiable figure head for ridicule.

As a fan of the director and especially Repo Man I am perhaps going a little easy on this film. With my patience tested quite easily by awful films that I have a tendency to switch off, I make no guarantees that if this had been a film made by somebody other than Alex Cox I would be saying much at all about it. At least not in a positive light. I can see why it's received mediocre reviews, it's definitely a film you've got to be in the right mood for but as the Village Voice said "for all its flaws Repo Chick is a midnight-movie blast", and that is the crowd who would enjoy it I think. Open minded looking for something a little odd and a little fluffy at the same time.

This is no Repo Man but it's fun anyway.

Repo Chick (2011) DivX - icefilms.info