Review by Gordon Justesen
Dean Stanton, Emilio Estevez, Tracey Walter, Olivia Barash, Sy Richardson
Director: Alex Cox
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Features: See Review
Length: 92 Minutes
Release Date: April 16, 2013
“The more you drive, the less intelligent you are.”
There are cult films…and then there’s Repo Man. I honestly don’t think I’ve seen another film so completely all over the place, and gleefully so. Within the first 5 minutes, it’s easy to see why this is considered one of the great cult movies of all time.
I actually didn’t get around to seeing this movie until very recently, though I had been meaning to check it out for many years. Though truly a product of its time, the film’s unrelenting zaniness has no doubt played a huge part in terms of its cult movie appeal, resulting in an increasing fan base ever since its 1984 release. One thing’s for certain, a movie like this only gets made once in a lifetime.
Otto (Emilio Estevez) is a young L.A. punk type whose life is headed to Nowheresville. He quits his job at a supermarket, only to later find himself dumped by his girlfriend and ridden of a college fund, which his parents have donated to a televangelist. In other words, his life just went from zero to negative fifty.
But he soon catches a break when he falls into a job opportunity, that of car-repossessing. After a chance encounter with veteran repo man Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), Otto is quickly intrigued by such a profession, mainly since Bud and his fellow repo men seem to carry the same type of “who cares” demeanor that he does. Before long, Otto hits the road with Bud, who teaches him all about the repo code, a set of rules that could keep such a working man safe…especially in the case of the repo agency’s primary pursuit.
That happens to be a 1964 Chevy Malibu, which is being driven by a crazy ex-government employee. There is a huge bounty on the car, mainly because of the super top secret cargo lurking in the trunk. And this very cargo will blow you away…literally!
On a first viewing, you can’t help but be overwhelmed by the hilarious insanity unfolding before your eyes. The mishmash of sci-fi elements and the L.A. punk scene are more than enough to take in. Plus, if you’re a punk rock aficionado, you’ll be having a ball with the soundtrack including the likes of Iggy Pop, Suicidal Tendencies and The Circle Jerks.
However, on a second viewing (at least, in my case), you start to take notice of what writer/director Alex Cox was really striving for, which was that of a daring political satire. And without going into many specifics, Cox is admirably bold in his social commentary. A prime example, for me at least, is his illustrating the fear of a foreign nuclear attack via the capabilities of the device lurking in the trunk of the Chevy, which is also very much played for laughs.
In the end, though, what is to truly be admired about Repo Man (and this is discussed in the supplements) is that a film like this managed to get both made and released to the public. Though independently made, the film got a major distributor in Universal, and that’s something to be said because there’s no way any major studio would consider releasing a film like this today. Hell, I hesitant to think if even an indie distributor would go near it.
Though I don’t find myself crazy about this film like many of its fans, possibly because I saw it much later than I should have, Repo Man is nevertheless a treasured gem of insane originality. It’s simply hard to put a specific stamp on this movie, which is what I really admire about it.
Criterion once again unleashes their superb brilliance in crafting astounding HD presentations. Right from the colorful opening credit sequence, this nearly 30 year old film looks nothing short of fantastic. The inclusion of a 2k digital transfer adds a great deal to the magnificent quality. The sun-baked L.A. setting, courtesy of Robby Muller’s cinematography, is showcased in breathtaking form. And that’s balanced out well with the nighttime scenes in the film’s concluding portion, and a glowing climax that appears even more so in the 1080p. Fans of the film definitely have a reason to celebrate!
While I was surprised that a DTS HD mix wasn’t applied, the PCM mono mix turns out to be just as engaging! The punk rock soundtrack, especially, gets a tremendous working as a result. It shows that Cox wanted to be faithful to the initial presentation of the film, while at the same time ensuring that it would sound better than ever with Criterion giving 110%. Dialogue delivery is outstanding from beginning to end and various sound effects associated with the sci-fi element of the film are heard terrifically, as well!
Not only has Criterion delivered a terrifically loaded list of extras for this release, but they have delivered what is certainly one of the best designed packages of recent memory! In fact, this might be the absolute best piece of cover art I’ve seen from Criterion…now just think about that!
Extras-wise, this is Criterion on a grand scale! For starters, we have a commentary featuring Alex Cox, executive producer Michael Nesmith (I had no idea he produced this!), casting director Victoria Thomas and actors Sy Richardson, Zander Schloss and Lel Zamora. There’s also new interviews with musicians Iggy Pop and Keith Morris, as well as actors Dick Rude, Olivia Barash and Miguel Sandoval. In addition, we get a roundtable discussion about the making of the film featuring Cox, producers Peter McCarthy and Jonathan Wacks, Zamora, Richardson, and Rude, as well as a conversation between actor Harry Dean Stanton and producer Peter McCarthy. And it doesn’t end there, as we are even treated to Cox's "Cleaned Up Television Version" of the film, and rounding out the supplements are Deleted Scenes and Trailers.
And as if that weren’t enough, the expected insert booklet is a whopping 68 pages, featuring an essay by critic Sam McPheeters, an illustrated production history by Cox and a 1987 interview with real life repo man Mark Lewis.
Repo Man is unquestionably a triumph in film eccentricity, if there is such a thing. Fans of this film and Blu-ray enthusiasts owe it to themselves to add this monumental Criterion release to their collection, as it illustrates the greatest qualities of a Blu-ray release. Easily one of the all around best Blu-ray releases of 2013!