There's been an Internet meme floating around for awhile now that's known as The Jude Law Curse. It goes something like this: Why is a clearly talented, good-looking, versatile actor not able to open a film in a lead role? Law has enjoyed success in many films, but whenever he takes top billing the resulting film falters at the box office. Cold Mountain, Closer, Alfie and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow all have their moments of quality -- I quite like Sky Captain -- but none of them really hit with audiences.
It's just that way sometimes. No matter how hard an actor gets pushed into the entertainment consciousness, audiences just don't bite. I always felt that way about Téa Leoni, for some reason.
Anyway, I don't think Repo Men is going to break Law's losing streak.
Set in a Blade Runner-esque, not-too-distant future, Repo Men presents a world where technology allows for the replacement of virtually any organ or body part with artificial versions supplied by The Union, a monolithic bio-tech company.
Of course, such replacements are rather expensive, so when a customer gets behind on payments The Union sends a repo man out to take back the part in question, be it a limb or an organ. For most, this is a death sentence.
Remy (Jude Law) and his partner Jake (Forrest Whitaker) are The Union's best repo team. They are also best friends. Remy is married with a young son, while Jake lives the single life. Remy's wife, Beth (Carice van Houten) wants Remy to get out of his gruesome business and go into sales -- actually, it's more of an ultimatum. Change jobs, or find a new family.
So, Remy goes out on one last job, which goes shockingly awry, and he winds up the recipient of a top-of-the-line artificial heart for his troubles. Shouldn't be a problem if he wants to stay in the repo business, right? But Remy begins to see things in a different light now that he shares something in common with his clientele.
Sure enough, he can't go through with the job anymore, and as the late payment warnings pile up, Remy begins to realize that he might have to go to war with the very same people he once worked with.
There are several elements that make Repo Men intriguing and sometimes exciting, but they aren't enough to save the film from an extremely flawed script. Written by Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner, Repo Men is loaded with under developed characters -- some downright unlikeable -- and lapses of logic that exist only to perpetuate the narrative push to a terrible resolution that almost killed the film entirely.
It's a shame, and somewhat baffling, since the writers had been developing the script since 2003. No effort is made to explain how The Union got carte blanche to repossess vital organs without regard for the person's well-being, and it's just not plausible without the allegorical hook of corporate fascism or something along those lines. That kind of back story could have accentuated the cold, dystopian feel Repo Man is going for, and that has been achieved to better effect in films like Paul Verhoeven's '80s classic, Robocop.
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik, Repo Men is proof that, while he's no Verhoeven, Sapochnik definitely has a future as an action director.
He gets a lot of bang out of his obviously less-than-massive budget, visually creating a future world that is derivative -- or, more charitably, homage-laden -- but that ultimately establishes a good atmosphere. Aside from the obvious Blade Runner look, Sapochnik throws some nice shout-outs from everything to Escape from New York to Oldboy -- in an epic hallway beat down that tries to one up the South Korean instant classic.
He spaces his fight scenes out a little too wide sometimes, but the action itself is often inventive and brutal and is well-shot. He doesn't flinch from some gratuitous moments of gore, culminating in a great, nearly jaw-dropping gag near the end that was a nod to another Jude Law film, David Cronenberg's last real body horror flick, eXistenZ.
Law is decent as Remy, though the script usurps him as much as it can. I can buy him as a cold-blooded killer with a conscience but just barely. Part of it is Law himself. He's always seemed somewhat emotionally distant, which suits him when he's playing a killer or a sex worker android (in Spielberg's overly maligned A.I.).
But when it comes to warmth and unchecked emotions that don't involve physical pain, Law has a hard time dropping his veneer of implacability. The film has, surprisingly, more of a sense of humor than he does.
That said, Law does share a good chemistry with Forrest Whitaker as Jake, who seems to be here because he heard about a scenery buffet that needed chewing. Liev Schrieber is actually pretty great as Frank, the head of the repo unit. He's got a snake charmers way of making you forget he has a heart that pumps money instead of blood.
But none of that is really enough to keep this ship afloat. There are elements of something really good in Repo Men, but the holes in the script, shallow characters and an ending that practically negates half the film will do nothing to end Jude Law's Curse.
Bounty Is Up
Ahh, The Bounty Hunter. You sure, I can't just tell you Jennifer Anniston looks drool-worthy in that indestructible, form-fitting, black mini-dress and that Gerard Butler takes his shirt off, and just get out of here?
I didn't think so.
Nicole Hurley (Jennifer Anniston) is a reporter with a lead on a story that could possibly uncover corruption in a NYPD evidence room. Her ex-husband, Milo (Gerard Butler) is a disgraced ex-cop who has taken up bounty hunting to make ends meet.
Nicole is obsessed with her job, to the point that when called upon to make a court date for a vehicular assault charge, she ditches her lawyer on the courthouse steps to follow up on a lead. The presiding judge, possessing as little sense of humor as the film itself, issues a felony bench warrant.
Milo is similarly dedicated to his job, owing $11,000 in gambling debts. He sleeps on the couch at Sid's Bail Bonds, so it isn't long before his weekend plan -- getting drunk and punching stuff -- gets changed when Sid (Jeff Garvin) offers him the opportunity to bring in his bond-jumping ex. You'd think he won the lottery.
Meanwhile, Nicole's informant, Jimmy (Adam Rose) is being held hostage by Mahler (Peter Greene), the cop behind the corruption and whose cover-up Nicole is quickly unraveling. Needless to say, he wants her stopped.
Milo quickly, and gleefully, captures Nicole, but it isn't long before they're both dodging Mahler's thugs and a trio of bookie tough guys looking to get their money out of Milo. Naturally, they are forced to work together to solve their problems, and in the process perhaps thawing their icy relationship with an abundance of sexual chemistry.
The Bounty Hunter is as cliché-ridden and formulaic action-tinged rom-com as you are likely to see. Directed by Andy Tennant (Hitch) from a script by television writer Sarah Thorp, the film is rote, paint-by-numbers stab at a Lethal Weapon-lite crime comedy that mistakes its high concept conflict for actual comedy.
The film hits some of the right beats but relies mostly on the obvious friction between its two leads for laughs, which never come because there aren't any actual jokes -- just attitude.
I imagine it would be hard to get any jokes into dialogue for this expository, so the film falls back on slapstick physical humor, more often than not generated by the sexual tension that the film tries to amp up, with one shop-worn situation after another.
Director Andy Tennant veers mechanically between the two tones of comedy and action, never finding an organic balance between the two, which only exacerbates the tepid nature of the writing. Finding a balance doesn't matter much when the script isn't particularly funny or action-packed. Not to mention, having Nicole and Milo start out as such unlikeable characters, just to have an easy way to craft an arc for them, is lazy writing.
As far as the acting goes, Butler is clearly having a blast, channeling a little of Mel Gibson's Martin Riggs from Lethal Weapon. In fact, his near manic performance almost tricked me into believing I was having a good time, too. Artificial, yes, but it was he who was the closest thing to fun in this flick.
Anniston bounces (figuratively and literally) between her looks of pinched confusion and wry charm and wears that mini-dress well, but she still seems like she was phoning it in to a degree. To be fair, she probably knows what she's in, and The Bounty Hunter doesn't call for a rich, multi-layered performance. The fact that her character is an annoying, empty vessel can't help.
If your interest in this lies in the first paragraph of this review, by all means go see The Bounty Hunter. It's not good, but it's too goofy and harmless to summon hate for. If, though, you require more than a couple of sexy people spouting trite silliness that kind of sounds funny, then your time would be better spent watching an infinitely better example of a crime-comedy, like Kiss, Kiss Bang, Bang.
Seriously, see that one if you haven't.
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