The Repo Men film is a dark, at times comedic dystopia with plenty of action and tension. Essentially it is about a Credit Union repo man –the kind that takes your car if you don’t make your payments– except instead of cars, he repossesses artificial organs (artiforgs), almost always killing the client in the process. It is gruesome -at times qualifying as torture porn- and definitely earns its R rating. It is great popcorn fun and I really enjoyed it; you will too if you have the stomach for it.
The book was written by Eric García (Anonymous Rex trilogy) and the screenplay by García and Garrett Lerner (John Doe, Smallville, Roswell). Besides García, there are other Latinos in this production: director Miguel Sapochnik, cinematographer Enrique Chediak, and supporting actress Alice Braga (I Am Legend). There are other Latinos in the cast and crew. For example, John Leguizamo is in it, although we’ll have to wait for the DVD because his main scene was cut and you barely get a glimpse of him in the movie. He plays Asbury, a black market artiforg dealer. All in all, lots of Latino love in this film. Just listen to the musical intro! Of course Forest Whitaker, Jude Law, and Liev Schreiber help make the movie first-rate. Law plays the main character Remy and Law’s son Raff plays young Remy. And for NBC’s Community fans (like me), there is a nice surprise! The casting was perfect all around. There were no weak links among the actors.
Overall, the movie is faithful to the book. Even the name change to Repo Men is redeemed. Speaking of names, in the book the main character had none. So, according to the book’s Author’s Note, screenwriter Garrett gave him a name based on ‘Repo Man,’ RM, or Remy for reference. The name isn’t used in the movie (unless it’s in a deleted scene). Jude Law is credited as Remy though. Here are some differences between the book and movie:
- The repo men tattoos in the book are dark circles with golden arrows running through it; in the movie they’re Union logos with stripes underneath according to rank.
- The endings were very different. I’m not spoiling this bit, but let me say that they are both interesting endings, and I’m not sure which one I like better.
- [SPOILER] In the movie, Remy is married and lives with his wife Carol and little boy Peter. He is a likeable anti-hero. The book Remy is divorced four times and is arrogant in his repo man status. He is married to his fifth wife Wendy. His one good feature is his relationship with his son Peter, a college student (son of third wife Melinda), even though he manages to frak that up too.
- [SPOILER] The one adaptation I was totally bummed about: in the book, a woman called Bonnie finds Remy and goes on the run with him. Bonnie is badass and more interesting than her movie counterpart Beth, who needs to be “saved.” (In the book, ‘Beth’ was the name of the first wife, a prostitute who couldn’t be bothered to switch careers once married. This Beth is unrelated to movie Beth.) In the movie, Remy finds a drugged-out woman in hiding called Beth, helps her detox, and wants to save her. In the book, the woman he finds hiding out is someone else entirely, and it’s the most dramatic point of the novel. The screenplay watered down the female costar and that dramatic moment.
- [SPOILER] The four times Remy became unconscious according to the movie: tank test during soldier training, a bar fight, defibrillator accident with songwriter T-Bone, and botched repo job. In the book: tank test; attacked by two “beefy” guys he interrupted at the Red Light District while searching for his prostitute wife Beth; misuse of ether on first solo job, and defibrillator accident with kid show actor Captain K.
I liked the movie more than the book it’s based on, Repossession Mambo (itself based on the short story The Telltale Pancreas) although they both have pros and cons. The best feature of the movie over the book is the stripping of excessive wives and soldier back story. The storytelling is linear and straightforward. The book jumps to different times and characters, symbolizing Remy’s fragmented view of the world. It’s not as easy to grasp as the movie. Plus action sequences do much better visually, especially an awesome hallway fight scene that’s not in the book. The movie soundtrack is excellent, by the way. The best feature of the book over the movie is the expanded artiforg, supply house, and Credit Union history. Also, the female lead is stronger in the book and you get a better sense of Remy’s thought process- something that’s hard to do with a movie script.
If you liked the book, you will definitely like the movie. If you liked the movie, you might want to read the book for its extra details and character development. The jumping around in the plot won’t be a problem if you know most of the story already. On the other hand, reading the book first might be confusing. To sum up, it’s a great story of a scary future that just might be ours.