Follow TV Tropes


Film / Repo Man

Go To

"It happens sometimes, people just explode. Natural causes."
Agent Rogersz

A 1984 Cult Classic black comedy sci-fi movie written and directed by Alex Cox and starring Emilio Estevez, known for its comic vignettes, outlandish scenarios, Genre-Busting aesthetic, memorable dialogue, and well-liked Cult Soundtrack consisting entirely of songs from famous Punk Rock artists like Iggy Pop, Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, Fear, and others.

Young LA punk Otto Maddox (Estevez) has a really bad day: he gets fired from his job at the supermarket, sees his girlfriend cheat on him with his best friend at a party, and learns that his ex-hippie parents donated all his money to a televangelist. Then he meets Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) and becomes a repossession agent, quickly discovering that the life of a repo man stimulates him a great deal more than the increasingly phony world of LA punks. Through various encounters and a mad rush between competing repo men (and the CIA) to locate a 1964 Chevrolet Malibu, Otto learns that "the life of a repo man is always intense".

Based on a some true stories that Cox picked up while working as a repo man in real life. There aren't many aliens, but there's plenty of shrimp!

A script for a potential sequel was adapted as a Comic Book called Waldos Hawaiian Holiday.

Alex Cox released a sequel named Repo Chick in 2009.

Not to be confused with Repo! The Genetic Opera, Repo Men or to the professional wrestler who used the name Repo Man. Definitely not to be confused with Reaper Man.

"I don't want no tropes in my car":

  • Blatant Lies: Agent Rogersz' assertion that sometimes people just blow up to explain the state trooper's spontaneously combusted body.
  • Brand X: Otto works at Ralph's before he becomes a repo man, so everything has the generic labels Ralph's used to have. The surviving cans of "Beer" in particular are now prized collectors items by fans of the film.
    • It's so pervasive that even the butyl nitrate spilled on the table in the club is marked with a generic label.
    • At one point, Otto eats from a can labeled "Food".
    • The movie's Criterion release even gets in on the fun, with the DVD itself featuring a plain white label that just says "Disc."
  • Brown Note Being: Witnessing the aliens in the trunk can vaporize a person.
  • The Cameo: The Circle Jerks as... the Circle Jerks if they were a lounge band.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Depending on your perspective a) Miller, b) everybody but Miller, c) everybody and Miller is so far he comes around the other side.
  • Church of Happyology: Dioretix. They are constantly, and that is constantly, ripping off followers or trying to brainwash people into becoming followers.
  • Cool Car: Subverted, the car that holds everyone's desires is:
    • MacGuffin: A 1964 Chevrolet Malibu with New Mexico plates that's somehow worth $20,000. note  And opening its trunk makes people vaporize.
    • In the end, it does become rather cool, with a lightning bolt-generating forcefield and the ability to fly (and to possibly traverse time and space). Who wouldn't want those features?
  • Creator Cameo: Alex Cox is on a bench watching the Rodriguez brothers steal a car.
  • Down L.A. Drain: The car chase goes into the drains as well.
  • Face–Heel Turn: After being kidnapped by them, Leila joins The Men in Black and starts helping Agent Rogersz out
  • Freudian Excuse: Otto's punk friend tries to blame society for his criminal ways, only for Otto to point out that that's bullshit, he's just a white suburban punk like him.
  • Gainax Ending: Whatever is inside the car goes completely haywire and nobody can approach it but Miller, who invites Otto to come with him. The car flies off and zooms around Los Angeles, apparently enters hyperspace...roll credits?
  • Genre-Busting: How many punk rock sci-fi satires are there in the world?
  • Hippie Parents: Otto's parents are shown to be stoner hippies who constantly watch TV, never leaving the couch to the point of having actual cobwebs. They give Otto's college fund to a Christian TV cult.
  • It's Popular, Now It Sucks!: In-Universe examples.
    Lite: "I was into these dudes before anyone. Wanted me to be their manager. I called bullshit on that. Managing a pop group is no job for a man."
    Otto: (Regarding the "lounge" performance by the Circle Jerks) "I can't believe I used to like these guys."
  • Jerkass: The Rodriguez Brothers. The other repo men aren't that nice either, however.
  • Just as Planned: When Otto escapes from being tortured, Agent Rogersz casually remarks, "It's all part of the plan."
  • Lobotomy: One lunatic character laments on how great he felt after getting a lobotomy himself. Of course, he also talks about how high levels of radiation is harmless.
  • Meaningful Name: All of the Repo Men ("Bud", "Oly", Miller and Lite) are named after beers: Budweiser, Olympia, Miller High Life, and Miller Lite.
  • The Men in Black: The CIA agents searching for the missing aliens. All of them wear black suits, white shirts, and black ties, and have blonde hair.
  • Mexican Standoff: In the convenience store late in the film.
  • Off-the-Shelf FX:
    • Need a Sickly Green Glow and can't afford CG? Buy some green glow-paint!
    • Rogersz' hand is simply covered in aluminum foil. Her using a screwdriver to adjust it helps sell it as a robot hand.
  • Orphaned Setup: Oly's joke about the pig with a wooden leg.note 
  • Parental Savings Splurge: Otto's bad day culminates in his parents donating all his college money to a televangelist. Which prompts him to become a repossession agent.
  • Product Placement: The only aversion to Brand X were the Christmas tree air fresheners. The makers sponsored the film.
    "Find one in every car. You'll see."
  • Production Foreshadowing: One girl at a party wears a Sid Vicious t-shirt. Alex Cox's next film would be Sid & Nancy.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The employees of the Helping Hand Acceptance Corporation certainly apply
  • Random Events Plot: Before the Chevy Malibu comes into play, the plot is mostly pieces of Otto and the other Repo Men doing their job.
  • Running Gag: Several:
    • The three punks committing random crimes.
    • The Brand X generic labels on everything.
    • The Plate O'Shrimp.
    • The old lady whose trash Otto runs over.
    • The Christmas tree air fresheners.
    • The televangelist, whose demands for money over various TV and radio programs can be heard in the background of many scenes.
    • Dioretix.
  • Scary Black Man: Lite, who carries around a gun and isn't afraid to use it if people try to shoot him while he's taking their car. It's loaded with blanks, which gets the job done just as well as if he'd used regular bullets.
  • Shout-Out: A couple to William S. Burroughs.
    • When Marlene takes Otto into the hospital, a voice on the PA says "Dr. Benway to surgery." Nice touch.
    • The backwards credits at the end reference Kiss Me Deadly, and the glowing trunk of the 1964 Malibu references the glowing box.
  • Serious Business: Repo-ing. Otto and his coworkers go through hell and back and even up against the government in order to repo a car, and by the end when he's flying it through the sky, Miller regards it as simply 'The life of a Repo Man'.
  • Sickly Green Glow: The 1964 Chevy Malibu at the end.
  • Smoldering Shoes: The highway patrolman who opens the trunk of the Malibu in the beginning of the film is reduced to a pair of smoking boots.
  • Stay with the Aliens:
    Leila: "Otto! What about our relationship?"
    Otto: (Pauses and looks back) "Fuck that."
  • Too Dumb to Live: Archie opens the trunk of the Malibu, even after he's seen that doing so emits a bright light and whatever's in the trunk is extremely hot to the touch. He is fried for his trouble.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Of course "blanks get the job done too" if you don't tell us.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Flip you, melon farmer! (Only in the TV edit, which also features Otto exclaiming "Holy sheep dip!" where the actual movie has "Holy sheep shit!")