Outside the box: Repo
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Harry Dean Stanton, Tracey Walter
Directed by: Alex Cox
By Mark Polishuk
When you think of Emilio Estevez in the 1980s, you think of Brat Pack
classics like The Breakfast Club or St. Elmo's Fire
which are hilariously dated. His breakthrough film, however, was a small
1984 movie called Repo Man that still holds up today as a modern
This is the kind of movie where the plot pretty much defies description.
Estevez plays Otto, a would-be Southern California punk alienated from
his family and friends, who is generally just angry at life. Mostly by
accident, he ends up getting a job as a repo man, working with a zany
cast of characters including the burned-out hippie Miller (Tracey Walter)
and the unofficial leader of the group, Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), who
is wise in a loser kind of way.
The gang acts as modern-day outlaws, getting into numerous, hilarious
adventures trying to repossess cars. They have numerous run-ins with the
renegade reposessors, the Rodriguez brothers (Eddie Velez, Del Zamora)
and a gang of would-be punks led by Otto's ex-girlfriend (Jennifer Delgobin).
Then there's the mad scientist driving around Los Angeles in a 1964 Chevy
Malibu with alien corpses in his trunk that effectively act as neutron
bombs. Otto ends up chasing the car while trying to evade the Rodriguezes,
his ex, an insane TV evangelist and the government.
By this point, you're probably thinking that marijuana was involved in
the making of this movie, but director/writer Alex Cox (who later directed
the Sid Vicious biopic Sid & Nancy) fills Repo Man with wall-to-wall
hilarity. The film works best on DVD, as you may have to often pause and
rewind scenes to catch all of the verbal humour and sight gags that you
miss the first time around.
For example, one scene features Otto and Bud repossessing a car from a
rich yuppie while he's in a laundromat. The angry reaction of the yuppie
is funny enough to make the scene work on a basic comic level, but it
gets even better during his argument with the other customers about trying
to get two machines next to each other and also if you notice that
his load of laundry is composed entirely of alligator shirts.
For a modern comparison, Repo Man is comparable to the Coen Brothers'
The Big Lebowski, another film that adds on one absurdist layer
of humour after another. The film also has a great soundtrack, featuring
such punk icons as Black Flag, Iggy Pop and the Circle Jerks.
Most '80s movies, when watching them today, retain none of their original
meaning and are now only useful for rousing games of spot-the-mullet.
Repo Man, however, is still just as weirdly cool today as it
was back in 1984.