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The future looks awfully predictable (underscore “awfully”) in “Repo Men,” a blood-soaked, derivative and increasingly ridiculous sci-fi thriller in which Jude Law and Forest Whitaker play a pair of hotshot repossession agents who forcefully remove artificial organs from those who fall behind on their payments.
Comprising reclaimed bits from “Blade Runner,” “A Clockwork Orange” and “Children of Men” and glibly served up with hyper Guy Ritchie attitude by first-time feature director Miguel Sapochnik, the resulting in-your-face mess never knows what it wants to be when it grows up.
Those identity issues are destined to take their toll when it comes to tracking down an audience this weekend.
When you think clinically violent, muscular, futuristic action vehicles, the nominally thoughtful likes of Law, Whitaker and Liev Schreiber don’t readily spring to mind, and that should pose a problem where a targeted young-male demo is concerned.
Based on the cautionary tale “Repossession Mambo” by Eric Garcia (“Matchstick Men”) and set in a near future where society’s quest for eternal youth has come with a price, “Repo Men” revolves around the daily activities of Law’s Remy and Forest’s Jake on behalf of their employer, an unscrupulous medical technology firm known as the Union.
Their job description requires them to track down those in serious arrears and methodically extract those various, leased-to-own synthetic body parts and report back to the head office and their callous, soft-spoken boss (Schreiber).
But when an ill-fated repo assignment results in Remy being outfitted with a top-of-the-line Jarvik ticker, he undergoes a, uh, change of heart, and, falling behind in his own payments, finds himself being chased down by his former partner.
The film’s smug twists and turns might have been more entertaining if one hadn’t been able to see any of them coming, but the script, penned by Garcia and Garrett Lerner (“House M.D.”) and especially Sapochnik’s unsubtle direction signals everything a century in advance.
Meanwhile, in front of the cameras, though Law seems to be having fun transformed into a mean, buff fighting machine, one just can’t buy him as a kick-ass, Jason Statham-style tough guy when the contrived plotting demands it.
Although Whitaker and Schreiber are only slightly less unconvincing, others, including Brazil’s Alice Braga (“City of God”) and the Netherlands’ Carice van Houten (“Black Book”), appear uncomfortable in their English-speaking roles.
Shot extensively in Toronto, the film gets decent futuristic value for its production-design buck, courtesy of David Sandefur (“Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D”) and visual effects supervisor Aaron Weintraub (“Remember Me”).
Opens: Friday, March 19 (Universal)
Production: Relativity Media, Stuber Pictures
Cast: Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liv Schreiber, Alice Braga
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Screenwriters: Eric Garcia & Garrett Lerner
Executive producers: Miguel Sapochnik, Jonathan Mone, Mike Drake, Valerie Dean, Andrew Z. Davis
Producer: Scott Stuber
Director of photography: Enrique Chediak
Production designer: David Sandefur
Music: Marco Beltrami
Costume designer: Caroline Harris
Editor: Richard Francis-Bruce
Rated R, 111 minutes
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