Repo Chick (2009)

2012 #35
Alex Cox | 84 mins | TV | 1.78:1 | USA / English | 15

Repo ChickAlex Cox’s belated non-sequel (despite the title, there are apparently no links besides some cast members) to cult favourite (and 2012 Masters of Cinema release) Repo Man. It’s also the second of his “microfeatures”: films shot for a budget below the Screen Actors Guild cut-off of $200,000. Although it was written for a budget of $7 million, by shooting his actors quickly (in ten days) on green screen, then putting in sets made from toys, Cox made the entire film for closer to $180,000. It’s not going to work for every film, but perhaps there’s some lessons big over-expensive Hollywood productions could learn…

Not everything, though, because Repo Chick is definitely an acquired taste — which may be an understatement. Most reviews on the internet seem to be negative; most people will tell you it’s awful; and I could sort of tell it was rubbish… but at the same time, I sort of loved it. Everything is heightened. This is emphasised by the incredibly mannered greenscreened-actors-on-toys visual style, but the performances and plot are pitched at the same daft level, so that it all kind of works… in a crazy cult-y kind of way. The humour is equally quite broad; satirical, but on the nose about it.

It’s been asserted that there are no likeable characters, which I don’t think is true. The titular Repo Chick, Pixxi (Jaclyn Jonet), starts out as appallingly irritating as her obvious inspirations (the Paris Hiltons of this world), but somehow she grew on me. I think it’s around the time of a montage which shows her to be an exceptionally gifted repo person — from then on, she’s the hero, and I was properly rooting for her by the end.

I'm a Barbie girl...True, the other characters are mostly dim and unlikeable, but is that a problem? We don’t need a film full of characters we like (otherwise we’d never have villains) — do we need there to be any? Or is the problem not that we don’t like them, but that their dimwittedness makes them too-easy targets for humour? I suppose it’s easier to just hate the film than grapple with such questions.

I’m not going to assert Repo Chick is actually a misunderstood masterpiece. As I’ve said, it will only appeal to a specific audience (and not one that’s easily defined), the satire can be blunt, and it does get a bit repetitive towards the end — all the stuff on the train once the real plan has been revealed could’ve been cut back. But, overall, Cox makes his point about doing things cheaply very well, I think… though, at the end of the day, it’s only going to work by embracing the craziness of a style such as this film’s toy sets. You’re not going to get Sin City for such little money.

Repo Chick should be a mess. In many ways, it kind of is. It’s not for everyone — it’s not even for most people — or even many people, come to that — but it worked for me. I sort of loved it.

4 out of 5

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