Repo Chick ★★★★

This is the ideal punk film. You may not like it, but this is what peak DIY performance look like.

Alex Cox may have one of the strangest careers of anyone I've ever heard of, let alone any filmmaker. I can only imagine what it must be like to be the man who made one of the greatest biopics ever that also happened to be shot by Roger Deakins, only to fall from such great heights and be outcasted as a failure and a fluke. But while most people would spend the rest of their lives chasing the high of the spotlight, Cox seemed to have returned to his natural state, and bury himself deeper down that rabbit hole. Always a punk filmmaker - thematically, aesthetically, sonically, and technically - it's almost invigorating to see a man of so much talent make a micro-budget film in front of a green screen.

While you would think the end result would be campy at best, and a vomit party at worst, it's surprising to think that this actually works?!?!?! I know, I'm shocked, too. It definitely takes time to adjust your eyes to the visual wonkiness of the green screen + miniature effect [and the resulting glare that makes it look like everything's out of focus], but once you do, it's actually pretty easy to forget that is wicked low-budget.

It definitely helps that this stylized form-as-function ends up playing into the ethos of Cox, and as a result, of Repo Chick writ large. It's DIY in a way that feels very natural, and is coming from a place that influenced me greatly, which I picked up partly from the original Repo Man. I think Cox, while being a mainstream punk, is also the real deal, and that truth at the core of his artistry is what gives a film that might be 'bad' from a superficial/technical level all its power. Every theme explored here is a very old-school punk critique of the late 2000s, both politically and culturally. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's probably the only film I can think of that deals with the fuckery of the Recession in a way that feels not only honest, but raw.

Of course, Cox's punk ethos leads him into some cliche territories of 'old punks' that always annoyed me, even in 2009, particularly the 'campy fluff pop culture of reality shows and shoppy are the rot of our civilized society,' but I think I'm past the point of giving a shit about those views, because I think those elements are generally considered dumb nowadays, from what I can tell as an outsider now looking in. Plus, they work in tangent with the satirical elements going on here, so I'm not totally mad. (All this said, just because I like that fluffy Paris Hilton runoff doesn't mean I'm not critical of the class inequality and false hope ethos wrapped up in those images/media.)

I think the biggest flaw in Repo Chick, the part that holds me back from calling this legitimately great, is that the story is a bit rushed, and those missing beats are never smoothed over. I think this is mostly the combined byproduct of both time/budget constraints, and aesthetic attempts at rawness. It's not like it makes the film incomprehensible, but....why is this white guy with dreads here suddenly? What's with her friends? How does she win over the trailer park? It just kind of makes no sense when you think hard about it, which is odd because thematically this is rock solid.

Look, this isn't going to be a film for everyone. I wouldn't even say this is a film for everyone who's into punk, and it's definitely not a film for anyone who likes Repo Man. But if you're a very certain type of person in either of those categories - and you'll know by now if you are or not - then this is a great piece of raw camp that's also thematically complicated, and a great gem in the career of one of America's strangest Hollywood careers.

In other news: I was so unpunk for renting this for $2.99 from Amazon, you should take the Dead Kennedys patch off my jean jacket this instant and convince me to march in a unionization effort.