Repo Men (2010)

Crimes:

  • Combining the premise of Repo! The Genetic Opera, the plot of Logan’s Run, the look of Gattaca, the tech and society of Minority Report, a fight sequence out of Oldboy, and the end of Brazil into a tasteless, too-familiar stew 
  • Overplaying all its symbolism for maximum obviousness and grotesquerie, starting with its hero’s journey from murderous artificial-organ repo man to victim of the repo system, and moving on to a climax where a couple kissing while groping around inside each other’s bloody guts constitutes a sex scene
  • Taking forever to get anywhere, from its overextended yet predictable setup to its draggy “fuck you, viewers” ending

Defender: Director Miguel Sapochnik, writers Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner

Tone of commentary: Giggly and goofy. Sapochnik starts off by introducing himself in an Alfred Hitchcock voice, which starts the first of many gales of group laughter. The three commentators joke around, recalling events on set or just making up hyperbolic nonsense for each other’s amusement. Sapochnik in particular is prone to deadpan silliness, claiming that they actually removed Jude Law’s heart for a surgical scene, or that in a scene where Law breaks a bar glass, he “smashed his hand to pieces, he had to have reconstructive surgery.” It’s an enjoyably banter-y, entertaining conversation, though it often isn’t particularly enlightening about the film. 

Garcia eventually asks, “Are we going to laugh for the next two hours? We’ll have a laugh track and a commentary track.” Later, he complains that they’re just watching the movie and not discussing it. Sapochnik answers, “We are just watching the movie. Sorry, if I’m not allowed to laugh, I’m not going to say anything.” 

They have plenty to laugh over. They tell some cute anecdotes, often at their own expense. For instance, the two writers worked on the script for two years before realizing they were interpreting one described character, a former bank robber who now runs an erotic-cake shop, entirely differently. Garcia thought he’d gotten out and gotten successful and was now doing something he liked. (“They’re cakes, and they’re erotic! What’s bad about that?”) Lerner, meanwhile, thought, “What a pathetic loser! Poor guy’s making balls-cakes for a living!”

Sapochnik also laughs at himself over a sequence involving RZA as an album producer scheduled to have his heart repossessed; in the sequence where Law comes for him, he’s in a studio mixing a song, and Sapochnik naturally assumed RZA would write them a terrific new song and bring it with him for the scene. He didn’t mention this until RZA showed up on set and was taken aback by the idea, so Sapochnik had to rush to his trailer and frantically listen to CDs, looking for a good song for them to re-record for the scene. 

Another case where they laugh at themselves involves some recutting when they decided Law’s character should meet love interest Alice Braga earlier, but they couldn’t afford reshoots, so they cut her torch-singing act into a scene where Law is in his favorite bar. This meant a Jamaican-themed hangout for some reason had a lounge singer purring “Cry Me A River,” but apparently no one noticed or complained, which the commentators find hilarious.

They also spend a bunch of time talking about the Volkswagen donated to the production, under the requirement that the film have a minimum of nine minutes of scenes “in, on, or about the car.” Sapochnik says he got it down to seven minutes, 57 seconds, but that was “a real issue.” Garcia quips that they should have just added a scene where the characters converse at length about how Volkswagens are the best cars to drive when repossessing people’s artificial organs. Later, after another chat about the car, they wonder whether commentary time counts toward their nine minutes.

But mostly, they banter playfully as if they just like the sound of language, like in this scene where Law puts the moves on his unwilling wife:

Garcia: “He gets a little grope-y here. Wasn’t that the discussion, as how grope-y he should get? Let’s see how grope-y he gets in this take. [Pause.] That wasn’t as grope-y. There are scenes where he’s, like—” 

Sapochnik: “There are scenes where he, like, gropes, gropes, and gropes again.” 

Garcia: “That’s the difficulty of being an actor, you have to just grope and grope and grope.” 

Sapochnik: “Grope.”

What went wrong: It’s hard to tell; the tone is almost unrelentingly positive, with lines like, “I just like this scene, for no reason.” Garcia eventually suggests that they only discuss things they hate about the film, and Sapochnik says he doesn’t see the point in immortalizing gripes, since even if he dislikes something about the film today, he may feel different in a few years. Then they riff on their hatred of the film, saying, “What the fuck is that about?” about a random prop, and bitching exaggeratedly about Law’s stupid shirt.

The trio does repeatedly mention that virtually every scene in the movie went through many, many iterations, but they rarely explain what the other versions were, or why they were rejected. Possibly Sapochnik, a first-time director, wasn’t closely involved in the editing process; he says one scene involving John Leguizamo was cut, “I don’t know why,” and briefly references extensive studio notes saying they used phrases like “Look out!” and “Someone’s coming!” too often. (The writers then describe struggling for alternatives, like “Watch out!” and “Someone is arriving!”)

In other cases, Sapochnik glosses over his own decisions, as when he spends several minutes explaining how one entire sequence, of Law and his wife having a fight that ends their marriage, was going to be shot from the POV of their son’s camera-phone. This was meant as a reference to British teenagers filming their friends hitting strangers, and how dispassionately capturing awful things on camera-phones has become a societal way of distancing ourselves from them. Garcia: “So what happened to that?” Sapochnik: “We didn’t shoot it.” [They all laugh.] 

There are a few vague references to budgetary and time limitations, but they’re treated lightly. Sapochnik does periodically complain that it was bitterly cold throughout much of the shoot. After he gripes about the cold for two scenes in a row, Garcia laughs and says, “That’s what you’re going to say about the entire film. Each scene, ‘Oh my, this was cold!’ It was Canada in the winter, of course it was cold!” Sapochnik goes on to proclaim that it was -27 degrees Celsius during the shoot, which equals -542 in “real people degrees.”

The issues they do raise are with minor details, like the little girls hired to ominously jump rope in one scene. Sapochnik: “Those girls couldn’t jump rope for shit. A fuckin’ nightmare, that, I’ll tell you.” Garcia suggests that they should have had “a double-dutch competition for casting.” Sapochnik: “We thought we were doing a double-dutch competition for casting. In fact, we were doing a double-bollocks for casting.”

Also, Sapochnik got “in a right old state” over a barbecue sequence that didn’t feel like a barbecue to him because it was freezing out, and “all the plates were made of plastic instead of being made of paper, which really bothered me, I’ve gotta say. ’Cause in barbecues, you need the ketchup to kinda soak through the plates you’re using. Plastic’s far too thoughtful.” 

Another issue was Law’s character’s name, which the film never mentions; Sapochnik had to remind co-star Forest Whitaker not to call him by name, and “it was a really big thing, no one knows the name of our lead character. So we really went to town to try to make that work, and then we came to the marketing, and the trailer immediately begins with ‘Hi, my name is Remy,’ which was really handy.” 

Finally, they mention that the prop organ-scanners were not well attached to the characters’ guns, and tended to fly off when actors pulled them out. Sapochnik: “And they would try and keep a straight face and just go again.” Garcia: “Were they more successful than us?” [They all laugh.]

Comments on the cast: The commentators say almost nothing about stars Law and Braga (apart from her looking “like something out of Hemingway,” whatever that means). Garcia praises villain Liev Schreiber as “smarmy without being smarmy”; Sapochnik counters that he’s “smarmy with being smarmy.” In one scene, Sapochnik also compliments Forest Whitaker’s acting, but credits it directly and entirely to the fact that Whitaker is actually in a car during a driving scene, instead of “on a stage with a bunch of people shining lights in his face.”

By far the most anticipation and excitement and commentary is devoted to Yvette Nicole Brown, whose tiny role gets reams of praise from Sapochnik, though Garcia gripes that he never liked the way she played the role, because it didn’t match what he had in his head. He loves her on Community, though.

Inevitable dash of pretension: The commentators are mostly too collegiate, jovial, and self-effacingly funny to be pretentious, but they abruptly go off the deep end when they approach their it-was-all-a-dream ending. First they analyze it in terms of the id, the superego, and the subconscious. Then Sapochnik explains why it both isn’t realistic, and is the awesomest, most original thing ever: “You’re not trying to engage the audience in a film like this into just an experience of reality, you’re trying to heighten the reality, you’re trying to give them something that they wouldn’t otherwise see. And it seemed like the notion of a love scene at the end of an action movie had never been done before, and it would elevate the movie.”

Also, Garcia pours on the praise for a brief shot of Forest Whitaker adjusting something unseen and clicky in a car trunk, which turns out to be him sabotaging Law’s equipment, and finally setting the plot in motion:

Sapochnik: “This is where the whole movie comes together, unbeknownst to the audience.”

Garcia: “Until the second time they watch it, and they say, ‘My God, that director’s a genius!’” 

Sapochnik: “See that clicking sound? That’s the clicking sound of death.”

Commentary in a nutshell: Garcia, amid laughing and gags: “I feel like I’m the preschool teacher. Children! Children! Front of the classroom! Miguel’s pointing at the screen like he’s gonna to say something important. He’s not going to.”