Alex Cox is a Brit from Liverpool whose first feature was about the punk scene in Los Angeles.
OK, that’s not entirely fair. He moved to LA in 1977, and had been in LA until he released Repo Man in 1984. Basically, he moved with the punk scene and made a movie from within the scene that commented on the scene. Repo Man is also a commentary on punk aesthetics being show pieces while the real salt of the Earth were the repo men who were already operating as scum to everybody.
In comes Repo Chick, a movie which seemingly sets out to almost apologize for Repo Man. Even though Repo Chick is almost a comment on Repo Man, it’s a not-really sequel that has nothing to do with Repo Man besides having outsized dreams on a microbudget.
The plot of Repo Chick is an incomprehensible mish mash of asshole politics that reassesses the role of the repo man, by putting them in line with the corrupt rich people who rule the world. Pixxie de la Classe, an insufferable heir to some fortune, is a celebutante along the lines of Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian. She creates empires just to do nothing with them. She is followed by a bunch of punk-styled hanger-ons who basically try to get her money.
Pixxie is cut off from her family’s wealth, and forced to get a job as a repo chick, which she is surprisingly good at because she’s a great asshole. When she discovers an urban myth train that has 6 nuclear weapons on it, she manages to get on board to find out it’s being held hostage by terrorist groups who want to ban golf and make the President become a vegan.
And, everybody’s an asshole.
You know those old people sitting at your neighborhood bar bitching about how good life used to be, and saying how the world has gone to hell in a handbasket, and that everybody should just eat shit and die? That’s what this movie is. Alex Cox made a movie that’s the equivalent of making a joke of a lark of a bitchfest. But, it never really reaches it’s truly satiric tone until the final scene of the movie.
The majority of the movie is dressed in artifice. Cox shot the movie in front of a green screen for budget reasons (this cost less than $200k on the front end), made sets with models, and heightened the costumes to look like a gigantic cartoon. He fills the characters with dialogue saying outlandish things that sound almost as if a teenage punk wrote them, without being either quotable or insightful. They’re just sarcastically ironic, and you can almost hear him giggling as he wrote the words. But, it’s never clever until the final scene when he finally makes some jabs that actually hit and hurt in their precision and sharpness.
Which brings us to figuring out what the point of the movie was. Repo Man was a movie that felt like pointed satire dressed as a lark of a punk movie that was dressed in sarcastic clothes. It felt truly and justly pissed off and it knew how to skewer. Repo Chick, on the other hand, feels like a sarcastic movie posing as a punk movie posing as a satire. It’s obviousness and inartful targeting makes everything seem less urgent or insightful. It feels less intelligent or condemning than Southland Tales, and it just doesn’t work that well as a film. It seems like it should be counted as a failure.
But, it may not be entirely a failure. The stylization of Repo Chick gets in the way of its reception, and it may take a couple viewings to get used to it. If this is the case, and those who might love it might really fall for it because there is something there that isn’t for me, is it worth it to the rest of us?