Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jaclyn Jonet, Miguel Sandoval, Del Zamora, Alex Feldman, Chloe Webb, Xander Berkeley, Rosanna Arquette, Robert Beltran, Karen Black, Zahn McClarnon, Jenna Zablocki, Danny Arroyo, Jennifer Balgobin, Zander Schloss, Angela Sarafyan, Eddie Velez, Frances Bay, Bennet Guillory, Olivia Barash, Tom Finnegan, Linda Callahan, Karen E. Wright, Cy Carter, Biff Yeager, Kari French, Andres Carranza, Alex Cox
Written by: Alex Cox
Directed by: Alex Cox
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 89
Date: 09/08/2009

Repo Chick (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Plate of Shrimp

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Alex Cox has had one of the strangest of motion picture careers. He started off with two of the greatest films of the 1980s, Repo Man (1984) and Sid and Nancy (1986), which should have enabled him to do anything. He was full of promise. His third film, Straight to Hell (1987) -- which was recently re-tooled and re-released as Straight to Hell Returns -- was a dismal flop. His fourth film, Walker (1988), was appreciated only in Europe, and has since received a DVD release on the Criterion Collection.

From there, he made Highway Patrolman in Mexico, which took years to get released, but when it did, it received some enthusiastic acclaim. Sadly, that movie disappeared and has never seen a mainstream video release. From there, things only became stranger: an adaptation of a Borges story, some showbiz documentaries, an adaptation of an obscure, 400 year-old play (Revengers Tragedy), and a bizarre tribute to John Ford (Searchers 2.0). There was also a time when he was planning to direct the movie that became Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and he retains a screenwriting credit on the finished film, though stories of how it got that way differ.

Now we're down to what is perhaps his strangest film yet, Repo Chick. The first thing Cox or anyone says is that this is not a sequel to Repo Man, though, of course, it re-uses some of the same plot ideas and themes, and some of the same actors appear. Jaclyn Jonet -- also in Searchers 2.0 -- stars, with her pretty, yet hard looks. She's Pixxi de la Chasse, a spoiled rich girl with her own entourage. She's a bit of a hellraiser, and before long her family cuts her off, unless she gets a job. When her car is repossessed, she meets two repo men, Arizona Gray (Miguel Sandoval) and Aguas (Robert Beltran), and they decide to hire her. Like Otto in the original film, she becomes obsessed with a big target: this time it's a locomotive boxcar worth a million bucks. Eventually she gets trapped on the boxcar itself, with a handful of weird and dangerous characters...

Sometimes Cox goes with his favorite actors and mostly unknown casts, but here he gets Rosanna Arquette (the first time I have seen her in a decade), Chloe Webb (from Sid and Nancy), and Karen Black, plus Cox veterans Xander Berkeley, Zander Schloss, Eddie Velez, Olivia Barash, and others. However, the cast takes a backseat to the weird look and tone of this film. As has been reported, Cox filmed almost the entire movie against a green screen, allowing him to drop in whatever backgrounds he pleased. Sometimes he uses model train sets, and other times, he uses animated images; it varies. The movie is technically a comedy, but the laughs are sideways; they have to come around and grab you from behind before any laughter is heard.

If you're a fan of strong characters, you won't find much here. They more or less read dialogue at each other, and no one ever really interacts. The whole thing has a very offbeat, off-putting tone. But at the same time, every scene oozes cynicism and intelligence, as if Repo Chick were very deliberately trying not to be like any other movie. Frankly, I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I love Repo Man, but I'm sort of fascinated by it, and I'm willing to look at it again someday. After all, the real cult movies never start out with universal love and acceptance.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first Cox film available on Blu-Ray, and it comes from three distributors: Nordmedia, Industrial, and Paper Street. Extras include an interesting half-hour making-of featurette, and a trailer.

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