One of the strength of science fiction is the creation of worlds that don’t exist, but, at least in the movies, the worlds created not only don’t exist, they can’t exist. These are places where the central reason for their being is unsupported and unexplained. (Recent example: Surrogates, a world where apparently everyone who wants it can afford a deluxe tricked-out avatar, the equivalent of walking outside tomorrow and finding everyone is driving a Lamborghini with no worries about maintenance, insurance or gas.

In the opening sequence of Repo Men (based on Eric Garcia’s novel The Repossession Mambo) voiceovers tell us of a series of nonspecific disasters that have led to a world where a company like The Union could exist. Think of The Union as “the HMO from Hell,” the major supplier of artiforgs, mechanical organs that replace failed and failing biological ones. As the protagonist explains, you miss too many payments on your house, the bank repossesses it. Same with your car. And if you fall behind in the payments on your artiforg, The Union sends someone like Remi or Jake to get it back.

Remi and Jake are The Union’s best repo men. Friends since childhood, Remi is the more thoughtful of the pair, Jake the more pragmatic. But when Remi is injured during a repossession, he awakens to find he is not only a Union employee, he is now one of its clients. The experience changes Remi and he suddenly finds his heart is no longer in his work (pun intended). And to further complicate things, he falls behind on his artiforg payments…

Repo Men could be called a “thinking-person’s sci-fi” movie, in the best sense of that somewhat back-handed compliment. It’s an action movie without gratuitous violence or wanton property destruction (the closest thing to a car chase is an illegal lane change), characters think their way out of problems more than fight their way out. The world is so much like our own we can easily relate to it and the people in it—those who have fallen behind in paying their bills and those who are just “doing their job” to collect the debts. We watch Remi grow and change. And there are a couple of genuine surprises (one coming at the very end of the credits). 

The only quibble I had with the movie was: Could a company like The Union be allowed to operate, uninvestigated, unregulated, unquestioned? Just one of the things you can talk about as you leave the theater.

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