Young punk Otto becomes a repo man after helping to steal a car, and stumbles into a world of wackiness as a result.
Release Year: 1984
Rating: 6.8/10 (14,980 voted)
Critic's Score: 75/100
Stars: Harry Dean Stanton, Emilio Estevez, Tracey Walter
Frustrated punk rocker Otto quits his supermarket job after slugging a co-worker, and is later dumped by his girlfriend at a party. Wandering the streets in frustration, he is recruited in the repossession of a car by a repo agent. After discovering his parents have donated his college fund to a televangelist, he joins the repossession agency (Helping Hand Acceptance Corporation) as an apprentice "repo man". During his training, he is introduced into the mercenary and paranoid world of the drivers, befriended by a UFO conspiracy theorist, confronted by rival repo agents, discovers some of his one-time friends have turned to a life of crime, is lectured to near cosmic unconsciousness by the repo agency grounds worker, and finds himself entangled in a web of intrigue concerning a huge repossession bounty on a 1964 Chevy Malibu driven by a lunatic government scientist, with Top Secret cargo in the trunk.
Harry Dean Stanton
J. Frank Parnell
(as Michael Sandoval)
A repo man is always intense… but only a fool gets killed for a car.
Alex Cox |
Release Date: 2 March 1984
Filming Locations: Los Angeles, California, USA
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $95,300
(4 March 1984)
Did You Know?
Lance Henriksen was a front runner for the part of the lobotomized driver of the Chevy Malibu. Dennis Hopper was considered for the role of Bud, but his erratic behavior at the time ultimately made him unsuitable for the part.
Boom mic visible:
When the repo men are bullying Otto to reveal who beat him up. (Open matte version only. Corrected in 'widescreen' release)
Good evening, Otto. This is Agent Rogersz. I'm going to ask you a few questions. Since time is short and you may lie, I'm going to have to torture you. But I want you to know, it isn't personal.
"This is intense."
I put this eighties cult classic right up there with Blazing Saddles
(1974) and Dr. Strangelove (1964) as one of the best satires ever to
hit the silver screen. No exaggeration: this is one bizarre and one
very funny flick. Seeing it again after almost twenty years, I gotta
say, it lost nothing.
Emilio Estevez stars as Otto Maddox, a head-strong and slightly naive
ex-supermarket stock clerk and sometime punk rocker. He's kicking a can
down the street when up pulls Bud, "a repo man," played with a fine
degeneracy by Harry Dean Stanton, who asks him if he wants to make ten
bucks. (Otto's reply is memorable but not printable here.) When he
learns that Bud just wants him to drive a car and not…uh, never mind,
he bargains it to twenty-five bucks. When he finds out that Bud
repossesses cars for the "Helping Hand Acceptance Corporation," he is
sorely offended. But when he realizes how intense the life is (and how
bleak his other employment opportunities), he becomes a repo man
Meanwhile there's J. Frank Parnell (Fox Harris wearing a demonic grin
and weird black and empty frame glasses) driving a "hot" '64 Chevy
Malibu. "You don't want to look in the trunk, Officer," he tells a cop
who pulls him over on a desert highway. By the way, the map under the
opening credits shows the action of this film beginning somewhere on
old Route 66 in New Mexico, suggesting alien mecca Roswell territory
perhaps, but most of scenes were clearly shot in LA, and the desert
scene just mentioned was also probably shot in California as evidenced
by the Joshua Trees in the background.
What director and scriptster Alex Cox does is combine urban ghetto
realism with bizarro sci-fi shtick. He adds a fine punk soundtrack
including the title song from Iggy Pop with a brief appearance by the
Circle Jerks, and wow are they appropriate, but you have be a punker or
a 15-year-old to really visualize their moniker. The supporting
players, Sy Richardson as Lite, a black cat repo ace, and Tracey Walter
as Miller, a demented street philosopher, really stand out. I also
liked the black girl repo person with attitude (Vonetta McGee).
The real strength of the movie, aside from probably the best
performance of Estevez's career, is in the street scene hijinks, the
funny and raunchy dialogue, and all those sight gags. My favorite scene
has Otto coming home to find his parents smoking weed on the couch
zombie-like in front of the TV listening to a Christian evangelist
while he scarfs down "Food" out of a blue and white can from the
refrigerator. I mean "Food" is on the label, period. The Ralphs plain
wrap (remember them) are all over the sets, in the convenience store,
at the supermarket, bottles of plain wrap whiskey and plain wrap
"Tasteetos," plain wrap beer and plain wrap cigarettes.
Some other good shtick: the dead rat thrown in the car with the woman
that doesn't accomplish its purpose; the money in the presents that
Otto throws out the window busted open by the tires of another car for
us to see and drool over; the "I left a book of matches" line that
diverts Otto's idiot friend pumping gas; the pepper spray; Miller by
the ashcan fire contemplating the disappeared from the future and "the
lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything" (trippy, man);
and the punk criminal act of "Let's go get sushi and not pay." And
Otto's clean pressed white dress shirt and the tie–I love the tie–as
Lite tells him, "Doing my job, white boy."
See this for the authentic eighties street scenes and for my UCLA Bruin
buddy (by way of Oxford) director Alex Cox who dreamed the whole thing
up. Only an Englishman could really see America authentically.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut
to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it