Repo Man: a repo of Los Angeles you might not like, but can't deny
Phil Davetas
9/23/2002 1:57:06 PM

“John Wayne was a fag,” Miller announces in catatonic recollection while the others surround him in disbelieve. “He was too, you boys. I installed two-way mirrors in his pad in Brentwood and he came to the door in a dress.” The others now scoff and descend into a murmur of relief that their hero’s dignity is still upheld. “That don’t mean he was a homo, Miller. A lot of straight guys like to watch their buddies fuck. I know I do.”

One of the great exchanges in one of the most classic flicks of all time. Not only the great lines, but the utter attention to detail that fills every repo-frame. Repo Man in more ways reminds me of Fight Club in the respect that they are unapproachable films from the exterior, but packed with information. In other words, one refuses to indulge in the deeper or more artistic aesthetic of these repo-films because it doesn’t agree with what many feel as artistic as their highbrow necessity for high art. People would rather flock to the likes of Cast Away, The Sixth Sense or Driving Miss Daisy because of its more relaxed and universal appeal to the sensibilities. In other words, Fight Club and Repo Man are too immature for them to even regard as art. Only in Repo Man can you see Zander Schloss (bass player of the Circle Jerks) standing in the background of his former boss’s house decorating a dead Christmas tree in his pajamas in the middle of summer. Only in Repo Man can you see the Circle Jerks mocking the Monkees in a fraying Downtown tavern—Michael Nesmith of the Monkees execs this repo-movie by the way. Only in a repo-flick like this can you hear that old-fashioned punk score mixed together on masking tape in the basement of someone’s brother’s cousin’s uncle-with-a-foxy-daughter’s basement. And only in a repo-flick like this can you get Ralph’s supermarket to sponsor all your product placement needs with generic foodstuffs—including a jar of amyl nitrate. And only in a repo-flick like this does the plot encompass a time-traveling Chevy Malibu with four dead aliens in the trunk.

What I really dig about Repo Man is the fact that Alex Cox actually shot Los Angeles the way it really is. No picturesque, blue oceans with seagulls chirping versus the toxic brown sewage with sick and molested seagulls as fast food for the homeless. Nor do you see the glamorous masturbation of celebrities ambling Downtown Hollywood’s Walk of Fame cementing their hands in front of the Mann Chinese Theater over the dismal utopia that it is. Don’t get me wrong. I like Los Angeles like that. I grew up here and maybe the air will kill me before 50—live fast die young. But it was a rarity for its time that filmmakers would show the more authentic grime of the place. This trend caught on until it became a cataclysmic farce in flicks like The Crow: City of Angels. What can you do? You can film a movie like Never Been Kissed and Above the Law in Los Angeles and pretend they’re shot in Chicago with two or three authentic exteriors? Or you can shoot Fight Club in L.A. and pretend it takes place nowhere.

True, Repo Man makes it easy to trash, but in the end, you can have a good time with what the video tape doesn’t show: a fine retro-jump back to 1983 of both the studio and independent slice of the filmmaking industry via the commentary with the great Alex Cox, the okay Zander Schloss, the old Michael Nesmith, the casting director Victoria Thomas, the immortal Sy Richardson and Del Zamora, the other Rodriguez brother, video and theatrical release trailers and the talent bios.

Also Check out Alex Cox’s 1987 repo-flick Straight to Hell.

Repo Man 3 ½ out Four
R, 1984, 96 min., Anchor Bay Home Entertainment.

Harry Dean Stanton, Emilio Estevez, Sy Richardson, Tracy Walter, Zander Schloss, Michael Sanchez, Dick Rude, Del Zamora. Written and Directed by Alex Cox. Executive produced by Michael Nesmith.


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