There are plenty of times where I would buy a movie soundtrack because of a movie. When it comes to today’s movie, it was actually the other way around. For years I had always heard that the Repo Man soundtrack was something of a “must have” album for any fan of punk rock. Now, being just such a fan, I decided that I would go ahead and get the soundtrack and I did find it highly enjoyable, but it left me with a slight problem. See, I always like getting the soundtrack for movie so I can recall the scene that the songs were played in but now I had the soundtrack, but not the movie. Obviously, I had no other choice but to get the movie as well so I might as well sit back and enjoy today’s movie, Repo Man.
The plot: In the desert outside of Goffs, California, a motorcycle cop pulls over a 1964 Chevy Malibu for constantly swerving. The cop asks the driver, Dr. J. Frank Parnell, whats in the trunk and when Parnell answers that he doesn’t want to look in there, the cop takes the keys to the trunk and opens it, revealing a bright light that vaporizes him, leaving only his boots, and Parnell drives off. In Los Angeles, Otto is working on putting price stickers on cans of sliced peaches with his coworker Kevin when his boss, accompanied by a security guard, shows up and starts criticizing Otto. Otto yells at them and ends up getting fired when he shoves Kevin into the cans, knocking them over. Later that night, Otto is at a party with his girlfriend Debbie but when he goes to get her a beer, he comes back to find her in bed with his friend Duke so he quickly leaves. The next day, Otto is walking along when he is approached by Bud, who offers him $25 to help drive his wife’s car out of the area. Otto agrees but as he is starting the car, he is assaulted by the car’s owner but Otto quickly drives off. Following Bud to the Helping Hand Acceptance Company, and encountering Parnell and the Malibu along the way, Otto realizes that they are repo men and turns them down when they offer him a job. Back in the desert, some men in white hazmat suits are investigating the site where the cop was killed while the woman in charge enters the command van and enters the data that Parnell is heading towards Los Angeles. After looking through the want ads with Kevin, Otto head’s home and asks his parents for some money that they promised him for finishing school but learns that they gave the money to a televangelist in all of their names. Otto decides to take the repo man job and learns the ins and outs from Bud and Lite. While riding along with Bud, they encounter the Rodriguez brothers, who work for a rival repo company, and Otto grows to enjoy the somewhat fast paced lifestyle of being a repo man. One day, after repossessing a car, Otto sees a girl, Leila, running down the street and offers her a ride. As they are driving, the girl ducks down when she sees two blonde agents driving next to them and after causing Otto to swerve down a side street, she tells him that she has proof that aliens exist, showing him a photo of 4 dead aliens in the trunk of a Malibu, and says that the whole world will know soon. After dropping Leila off at her work, the United Fruitcake Outlet (U.F.O.), Leila thanks Otto by having sex with him in the back of the car. Both the Helping Hand and the Rodriguez’s learn about a $20,000 bounty being placed on the Malibu and everyone starts looking for it. When Parnell stops at a car wash, the rival company find the car and quickly steal it but as they are driving along, they complain about it being too hot and they pull over so they can get a drink. While they are both out of the car, Duke, Debbie, and Archie, some of Otto’s friends that have been on a recent crime spree, steal the car and drive off. The next day, Parnell tries calling Leila but is attacked by two blonde agents and manages to get away but Leila is captured by two other agents and brought in for questioning. Leila calls Otto and has him meet with her and Agent Rogersz, the woman with a metal hand, but while they are in the club, they are approached by Duke, Debbie, and Archie. When the three punks leave, they see Parnell trying to get his car back and he convinces them to open the trunk. Duke and Debbie chicken out but Archie does and once he is vaporized, Parnell gets back in his car and leaves. As he is driving, he is spotted by the Rodriguez brothers, who try to convince him to pull over but they are spotted by Bud, Lite, Oly, and Miller, who are on their way back from beating up Otto’s old boss and end up being forced off the road. The next day, Bud is upset about the Rodriguez brothers suing the company and Otto gets tired of listening to him complain and gets out of the car and starts walking. As he is walking, he spots the Malibu and chases after it and Parnell soon stops and opens the door, inviting Otto to get in. Once Otto is inside, Parnell starts driving around aimlessly while talking about radiation before saying he gave himself a lobotomy. When Otto questions him about that, Parnell says his friend had one after developing the neutron bomb and when Otto asks what kind of car his friend drives, Parnell says a Chevy Malibu. As the continue driving, Parnell suddenly passes out and Otto tries to keep the car from crashing before checking on Parnell, who is dead from radiation poisoning. Otto takes the car back to the Helping Hand lot and locks it up, then heads off to join a party that the rest of the group is at but while he is gone, someone breaks in and steals the Malibu from the lot. Later, Bud picks up Otto and they go to get some beer from the liquor store when Duke and Debbie show up to rob the place. A shootout occurs and Duke, the shop owner, and the security guard from the grocery store are killed while Bud is wounded. Otto heads back to the lot to find two agents harassing Marlene, the company’s secretary, and Bud goes to help her but she manages to escape while Otto is captured. Otto finds himself strapped to a table and Agent Rogersz and Leila begin torturing him to find out about the car, but Marlene and the Rodriguez brothers rescue him. They head to the hospital so Otto can question Bud about the Malibu, inferring that he is the one that stole it, but before they can ask him, they are forced to run when some agents show up. Otto and the others try to escape but are caught by Agent Rogersz, while Bud leaves the hospital and drives off in the Malibu, which is starting to glow bright green. Agent Rogersz taks Otto and the others up to Bud’s room, only to find he is gone and the Rodriguez pull the pins on some smoke grenades one of the agents had on them, allowing Otto, Marlene, and the two brothers to escape. Otto heads back to the lot to find the Malibu parked there with Bud sitting inside. When the agents show up, Bud is shot but the car starts emitting a field that prevents anyone from approaching it, setting them on fire if they get to close, even if they are wearing protective clothing. Miller approaches the car, seemingly unaffected by the radiation, and when Otto asks him what he is doing, he says he is taking it for a spin and invites Otto to join him. Otto gets up and heads towards the car, ignoring Leila’s talk about their relationship (causing her to says “I’m glad I tortured you.”) Once Otto gets in, Miller puts the car in gear and the Malibu begins rising up into the air and they fly off through downtown L.A. before heading out to the stars.
Repo Man met with high praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is that, “Repo Man is many things: an alien-invasion film, a punk-rock musical, a send-up of consumerism. One thing it isn’t is boring.” The movie is considered one of the best movies made in 1984 and would quickly gain cult status. Repo Man was a mild hit at the box office, earning over $3.75 million off of a $1.5 million budget.
This is an incredible movie and definitely worth watching. The acting was really good, with Emilio Estevez (Otto), Harry Dean Stanton (Bud), and Fox Harris (Parnell) doing great jobs in their roles. The story was a little confusing at times, due to several different sub-plots going on at the same time, but almost everything gets resolved a the end so you aren’t left questioning too much. A lot of the humor in the movie isn’t really blatant but comes in through some of the subtler aspects of the movie, such as all of the male Helping Hand employees, with the exception of Otto, having beer related names, with Lite’s being even funnier because he is African American. The tone of the movie also works well as it mixes some sci-fi elements (admittedly in a somewhat blatant cheesy manner at times), into a grittier view of the city life. As I said earlier, this has a great 80’s punk soundtrack but if you don’t like that style of music, you obviously won’t enjoy it as much. Definitely a must see 80’s movie that stands up over time.
Rating: 5 out of 5