A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this cult satire is not to be confused with the later sci-fi action flick Repo Men, starring Jude Law. Here there is a nihilistic view of the world, with hardly any person or institution worth respecting. Young "hero" Otto is not much of a good guy -- he's into booze, drugs, and sex (though he mostly gets rejected in this last case) and only acts in his own self-interest. Violence includes bloody, fatal shootings, and a few characters vaporized by a kind of death ray. Swearing is at R-level. The government is untrustworthy and not above torturing citizens. Love and organized religion are made to look pretty stupid, too. Bad-behavior stuff includes horseplay with guns and drug/alcohol use. There's nasty, outlandish sex gossip about John Wayne.
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What's the story?
Otto (Emilio Estevez), an alienated LA youth, gets fired from his latest lousy stock-boy job and loses a chance at sex when an ex-convict pal steals his girlfriend. Otto's life changes when he's tricked by a middle-aged stranger named Buddy (Harry Dean Stanton) into helping repossess a car whose owner fell behind in payments. Buddy works for a small agency with other "repo men," and he aspires to mentor Otto. For a while Otto enjoys the "intense" and semi-outlaw lifestyle, but ultimately he views Buddy as a broken-down old addict-drunk, and the repo job just another thankless hassle. Meanwhile, the competing repo businesses, other punks, some Men in Black types, and Otto, are swept into the hunt for a car that's really hot, in more ways than one -- a $20,000 bounty is out for a classic Chevy Malibu driven by a mad scientist, which may have lethal UFO alien corpses, pilfered from an Air Force base, thawing in its (glowing) trunk.
Is it any good?
Older teens may be interested in this edgy sci-fi satire, although the movie isn't really geared toward kids. Invoking a modern-day Los Angeles that's all bad neighborhoods, ugly parking lots, and concrete roads traveled by disgruntled creeps, REPO MAN has been called a cult classic of youth-oriented "punk rock" cinema, even though there's no music-related storyline. It's still got punk's restless energy, quotably cranky dialogue ("The more you drive, the less intelligent you are"), and bracingly anarchic attitude prized by rebellious post-adolescents. The narrative feels casually thrown together, yet is actually amusingly well constructed, and the modest f/x are more satisfactory than tons of modern CGI. The satirical sci-fi angle is kooky enough that it helps make the sour theme go down -- that society stinks.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes a film like this a "cult" movie. Ask teens what they like (or didn't) about Repo Man. Does its humor work as well now as it did in the Reagan-era 1980s?
Talk about the punk music that infuses the film. What does punk music have to say that makes it different from rap/hip-hop, grunge, or emo?
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