Repo Chick ★★★

Repo Chick is a near-sequel to Repo Man, which starred a plethora of actors including Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton. The original became a genuine cult classic, with a low budget, minimal release, and a life of its own on VHS. It was placed on many critic top ten lists for that year, and the punk soundtrack was a top seller, going down as one of the best punk albums of all time. Even the bands were in the film. If you’ve never seen Repo Man, you owe it to yourself to watch it, as it’s a prime example of what constitutes a great cult film.

This is why it is so difficult to judge Repo Chick. I would like to look forward to an Alex Cox film, but I haven’t seen anything of his since Walker back in 1987. After filming Walker, Cox lost his Hollywood clout due to a variety of troubles on that shoot. Up to that point, he had a great following, and his Sid & Nancy and Repo Man were favorites of mine, with Repo Man being the much more enjoyable film. (The life and death of Sid Vicious is not a film that is as eminently re-watchable as Repo Man.) It was a big surprise to see that he made Repo Chick, I was taken aback that it went straight to DVD, and unfortunately I think it’s the low budget that will cause many to miss out on seeing it.

The first things you notice in this film are the apparent green screen effects. Repo Chick was filmed entirely on a green screen set that would make George Lucas proud. Due to budgeting concerns, the sets are comprised of models, toy trains, miniature cars, and colorful backgrounds. In addition, some animation effects to produce motion on the set are clever. After watching for a while, you become less aware of them, but it is still a bold style choice. Practically every scene is shot with a stationary camera. Each of these techniques was used to help lower costs.

Another surprise for the Repo Man fan: there is nothing in this that links the first film to this one, apart from some of the same actors and the central job of repo man. The story behind this is that Alex Cox went ahead and filmed this without permission from Universal, but since this film has none of the original characters, he went ahead and released it anyway. Del Zamora, Eddie Velez, and everyone’s favorite Circle Jerk Zander Schloss, return to play different roles, but the film hinges on Jaclyn Jonet, who plays Pixxi, which leads to another reason why this will find difficulty ever reaching a fan-base.

I hate going back to the original, but let’s admit it: Repo Man was a classic. The actors, the music, the eerie tone, and a plate of shrimp made that film work on multiple levels. And maybe it’s related to the perspective of the star of the film: it’s easier for me to relate to Estevez, seeing as I was a young upstanding citizen like him, then it is to the star of Repo Chick. The difference here is that Pixxi De La Chasse is an insufferable, idiot celebutante, in the sad train-wreck mold of a certain hotel chain owners’ daughter. You set yourself up to distance your audience from your hero when your hero is a dolt.

So, let’s break this down: we’ve got a classic film to live up to, the budgetary decision to go all green-screen/toy model backdrops, no linkage to the first film’s characters, and a protagonist that’s a dum-dum. It looks as though Repo Chick would be a plate of shit. However, the quirkiness that Cox brought to the original is still here, it’s just a little harder to find among the artistic decisions in the film.

Let’s start with our repo chick, Pixxi. Although she was painfully annoying in the beginning, she really began to grow on me. This is Jaclyn Jonet’s first starring role, and I’m not sure if it’s going to take her anywhere, but she does hold her own as the film introduces many more zany situations and strange characters. She’s in the position to be the straight person to everything that is crazy happening around her, and she becomes effective in the role. Great job!

What helps Repo Chick maintain the quirkiness that was so present in Repo Man are the myriad of supporting actors in the film, most of which have been in Cox’s previous films. Xander Berkeley and Karen Black play the elder De La Chasses, complete with over-the-top British accents. Chloe Webb (Nancy from Sid & Nancy) plays a televangelist with fanned hair and great big nasty teeth. Even the guy who tested for Otto in the original finally gets his screen time in this. For a low budget film, they manage to cram 53 actors into it, all juggled well by the outrageous story.

Repo Chick does try to insert some 2009 day troubles in the storyline. The film dances around issues like terrorism and the home mortgage crisis. As with the rest of the silliness in the film, the terrorist plot revolves around a game of golf. They make valid points linking the mortgage crisis to water requirements of golf courses. However, you can’t take anything in the film seriously, so it’s not like there’s some deeper meaning to all of it. It’s a mish-mash of various ideas, imagery, and style that makes it easy to understand why this went straight to DVD.

In the end, it’s easy to recommend Repo Chick to people who have seen the original, but difficult to see it gaining any status as a good film, let alone a cult one. It’s visually interesting, funny in its quirky way, but underwhelming in the end.

[My CHUD review, 2011]