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Repo Man: Special Edition

review by Wayne A.


Rated R

Running Time: 92 Minutes

Starring Emilio Estevez, Eddie Velez, Zander Schloss, Jennifer Balgobin, Harry Dean Stanton, Tracey Walter, Olivia Barash, Sy Richardson, Susan Barnes, Fox Harris, Tom Finnegan, Del Zamora

Studio: Anchor Bay

Written and Directed by Alex Cox

Retail Price: $49.98

Features: Commentary by Writer/Director Alex Cox, Executive Producer Michael Nesmith, Casting Director Victoria Thomas, and stars Sy Richardson (Lite), Zander Schloss (Kevin) and Del Zamora (Lagarto), theatrical trailer, video trailer, talent bios, collector's booklet and Repo Man soundtrack CD

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital English, English Dolby Surround, THX approved

It would be too easy to start this review by using one of the snappy quotes that abound through this movie. That, however, would be too predictable. If you need one, though, insert your favorite Repo Man quote above. For those of you that have never seen this film, Emilio Estevez plays Otto, an 18 year-old, who's slacker a decade before anyone knew what a slacker was. He loses his job, he finds his girlfriend cheating on him with his buddy and his parents just gave his college money to send bibles to El Salvador. He meets a repo man, Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), who indoctrinates him into the Helping Hands Acceptance Corporation (though the Bud and the corporation helps "assholes who don't pay their bills" by repossessing their cars). Otto decides to go after a 1964 Chevy Malibu with a mysterious $20,000 bounty on it, placed by a government organization with a penchant for decontamination suits and metal hands, with much hilarity and bad special effects. The plot is stranger than the summary. To compare it to something today, it's more like X-Files episode with car thieves and bad special effects.

This movie is subversively funny, and intelligent in its wit. Most of the comedy lines come in the form of quick one-liners and observations ("Put your food on a plate -- it'll taste better."). Like all films of worth, there's also a subtle observations and sarcasm directed at consumerism and social mobility (which is interesting to contrast to the on-your-face messages of Charlie Sheen, Estevez's brother, in Wall Street). Of course, there's the soundtrack. While most movies of the time were schmaltzy ballads from Phil Collins, Repo Man's soundtrack stands out. It's one of the best compilations of classic punk -- Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, who also make a cameo as a lounge act, just to name a few. This isn't the weak Top-40 crap that passes as punk today, but the real stuff. In fact, Zander Schloss later becomes a bassist in the Circle Jerks after the movie was completed (though he admits the Circle Jerks weren't too impressed with him when they met him on the set of Repo Man).


Considering the movie was made in the early 80s, the transfer is not bad. However, I felt the transfer might have been better. The transfer is a little dark for my tastes, and the master looks like it wasn't kept in the greatest of conditions (though, in fairness, Repo Man was initially not seen as a cinematic jewel the way Apocalypse Now was). Nonetheless, the transfer was THX certified -- I can't help but feel, however, that Lucas and company should have paid more scrutiny to the transfer.

The audio, like the video, came from old source material. The original audio was mono, but it has been remixed to 5.1 Dolby. Again, like the video, it's not bad, but not the best. The music drowns out the dialogue on a few occasions, and the audio sounds do not have the clear and crisp one usually associates with DVD (again, most likely this is due to the age of the film).

The special edition of Repo Man (packaged in tins and limited to 50,000 units) contains no additional features than the regular release by Anchor Bay, save for the Repo Man soundtrack CD and the collector's booklet. The booklet, written by Cox's biographer Steven Davies, is full of interesting tidbits and a comic Cox drew to help show what the movie would be about before it was made. The DVD's main feature is the commentary. Cox shares the microphone with his executive producer, casting director and three of the movie's stars. I prefer commentaries with directors doing a separate track, or being added in as needed, such as what is done for some Criterion collection films like The Killer. In cases like this, where it's an open mike for a group of people, the conversations sometimes go off subject and the commentaries sometimes do not go into much depth. Some of those problems are in this commentary, but an even bigger problem is the fact that Cox doesn't say that much. Despite the shortcomings, though, the commentary is still interesting, though I wish it had gotten into more detail on some occasions.

The trailers are common fare, though entertaining to watch when compared to the trailers of today, in which every trailer is about someone about to save the world.

Finally, the feature this movie could have used was English captions. I don't know how much, if anything, could have been done with the audio, but to compensate for that, captions could have been done. This is a minor detail, however.

This movie is very entertaining. Buy it for the film, but the extras, particularly for a $50 limited edition, are thin and weak. Anchor Bay, however, must be applauded for taking an interest in smaller films with cult interest like Evil Dead, Hellraiser and, of course, Repo Man, and putting them out on DVD. Considering most cult films were done on shoestring budgets, one can't expect the production or transfer quality of T2. But then again, the things that make a film like Repo Man a cult classic isn't the necessarily the clarity of the film or audio. If you love this film, save your money and buy the regular edition.

I'm gonna go get some sushi -- and not pay for it.

(4/5, NOT included in final score)




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