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The slacker film genre began
here, 15 years before
Lebowski

Repo Man (1984)
Director: Alex Cox

By JIM CAROLUS
STATIC and FEEDBACK correspondent

Repo Man 1: “Have a beer, kid.”

Otto:  “Hey, you’re all Repo Men!!”

Repo Man 2:  “What if we are?”

Otto: (Dumps entire beer on floor, without cracking a smile)

Here it is, The Big Lebowski of its day. Alex Cox only directed a
few successful films (including the acclaimed Sid Vicious
biopic
Sid and Nancy), but few will argue with Repo Man’s
status as his most beloved film among cult audiences.
Unfortunately, it still remains largely unknown by much of the
mainstream public. Perhaps star Emilio Estevez’s current
“non-position” as a sacrificial lamb on the altar of The Mighty Ducks had something to do with it. But not to worry,
this is no
Men at Work.

In fact, Emilio Estevez is perfect for the role of Otto, a punked-out nihilist who is inadvertently “drafted” into the
exciting life of car repossession by Bud, one of the 1980’s finest comic creations. As portrayed by the great,
underused Harry Dean Stanton (usually reduced to supporting roles in films like
Pretty in Pink and Anger
Management
), Bud provides the most memorable lines in a film BRIMMING with great dialogue.  My personal
favorite?

“See those guys over there?  Normal f-ing people.  Hate ‘em.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Otto is quickly immersed in the fast-paced life of a Repo Man, complete with a
hilariously random Repo Code (“Its not everyday ya get a CODE to live by, kid”). I should also mention that one of
the cars being repossessed contains an alien life form in the trunk, causing anyone who opens it to instantly
disintegrate.

Its that kind of movie.  Anything can happen, and probably already has. The ending is one of the most
imaginative “flights” of fantasy I’ve seen in any mainstream film, much less one from the ultra-conservative (and,
as far as films are concerned, ultra-poor) 1980’s.

I could bore you with a conventional plot synopsis, but that would accomplish nothing more than reducing a fast,
funny, unpredictable film to a series of occurrences that would, to be honest, make the film appear sillier than it
is. This film has something to please nearly every possible viewer.  One person may identify with the "repo
lifestyle," while someone else might see a half-hearted criticism of consumerism, religion, 80’s pop/political
culture, and so forth.  The key word is “half-hearted,” because this film, like
The Big Lebowski, doesn’t really care
about anything.  The characters are SO easily distracted that even their commitment to laziness is tenuous.  It
prefigures, by nearly 15 years, the way in which
Lebowski’s Dude was actually MORE of a nihilist than the actual
NIHILISTS were!!  He was just too lazy to look the word up in a dictionary.

I’ve long felt that the reason films like this are so frequently overlooked is the difficulty of critics to adequately
convey their uniqueness. They wind up giving the film three stars and saying “Its funny”, but that doesn’t come
close to capturing the unique magic of Cox’s work of slacker genius. Suffice it to say, the film is an action-
comedy with overtones of science fiction and fantasy, bolstered by the kind of dialogue that was a clear influence
on countless “postmodern” filmmakers, including the Coen Brothers.  As if that weren’t enough, it’s difficult for
me to envision The Simpsons existing without the changes in storytelling that this film brought forth.  It's that
influential.

The film is especially worthy of repeat viewings.  Cox packs every frame of his movie with “throwaway” gags that
are easy to miss the first time. One of the most amusing is his use of generic labels for nearly every
consumable product featured in the movie.  If a character orders food, for example, they receive a generic can or
box that simply says “Food”.

Oh, and if the spiritual connection to
The Big Lebowski isn’t enough to stimulate a viewing of this forgotten
classic, one scene in which two lovebirds prepare to rob a convenience store was the original source material
for the opening “coffee shop” scene in
Pulp Fiction.  

Seek out
Repo Man and treasure it…I can’t think of a better film with which to satisfy the “Lebowski” craving.

And we
all have it. Bad.