Repo Man (Spotlight Review)

4 Stars


The year is 1984. The government is tracking down a rogue Chevy Malibu that is leaking radiation all over Los Angeles. Anyone that dare lay their eyes on what’s inside the trunk will be vaporized to their core. Fortunately for all the repo men in the area, the car is also worth ten grand; so how big of a risk is it really? Now everyone in the city is out to find the Malibu, including scientists, UFO conspiracy theorists, and destructive punkers who like to eat sushi and not pay for it. This is the world of Repo Man (1984), Alex Cox’s directorial debut which he made shortly after graduating from UCLA. Over the years it has become one of the most inspiring and cherished pieces of American punk film making ever made, but it wasn’t always that way…

After overcoming nearly all the odds of a struggling independent feature, Universal picked up Repo Man for a theatrical run in the beginning of 1984… It was pulled from screens just a week after it opened. Watching Repo Man now, it’s not hard to understand why. Despite being one of the most inventive, hilarious, and defining movies of the ‘80s, audiences were not prepared for it’s toxic waste aesthetics and bizarre world view. Here is a film that manages to examine anarchism, consumerism, conspiracy theorists, isolation, and the neutron bomb all in one pale swoop. “I don’t want no commies in my car… No Christians either!”

That quote you just read is spoken aloud in this film by the impeccable Harry Dean Stanton, one of the greatest character actors of all time who is largely responsible for my interest in lost/under seen cinema. In this film he plays a renegade driver named Bud, who recruits a young man named Otto (played by a young Emilio Estevez) to help him make some money after his parents donate all of his savings to a mega church on television. Together they develop a unique bond, and as Otto begins to repo cars he begins to acquire a new identity as well.

Robby Muller is a director of photography who has over 70 credits to his name. He’s worked with some of cinema’s greatest directors like Wim Wenders on Paris Texas, and William Friedkin on To Live and Die in L.A. (both films could be covered in later spotlights). The work he does on Repo Man is exceptional, and has such a unique look. The highlight has to be the glowing Chevy Malibu at the end which was done entirely in-camera. That’s right, they coated the entire car in 3M reflective paint which cost approximately $600 per bucket. The end result is a final scene that you will likely never forget.

When it comes down to it, we have the soundtrack to thank for bringing Repo Man back to the few shelves it is sold on today. The theme song performed by Iggy Pop is another timeless example of how overlooked music is in modern cinema. I often find myself humming along to The Plugz’ Reel Teen when I’m driving down the road, pretending I’m riding off into oblivion in a glowing Chevy Malibu. If you haven’t seen Alex Cox’s Repo Man, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Rarely would I classify a film as “life changing”, but this is one of those instances. A cinematic experience so one-of-a-kind you’ll never look back. You can find it streaming on all of the major platforms such as Amazon Video, Google Play, Vudu, Apple Store (starting at $3.99). You can also own it on Blu-ray/DVD through the Criterion Collection (which I recommend).

Remember: A Repo Man is ALWAYS intense!

By |2020-04-25T15:32:40+00:0004/25/2020|27 Comments

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About the Author:

Jake O'Brien is an independent film director and screenwriter who specializes in cult and classic cinema.


  1. Kristen 04/25/2020 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    Yes, this movie is bonkers and wonderful. A classic.

  2. Corey Dillard 04/25/2020 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    Fantastic film, Harry Dean Stanton absolutely steals the show. One of my all time favorites

  3. Ben Kenber 04/25/2020 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    This is a wonderfully crazy motion picture, one of the most unforgettable to come out of the 80’s.

  4. P..Joseph 04/26/2020 at 3:20 am - Reply

    Classic film. I seen where Quintin Tarantino and other new age filmmakers got their ideas from. Film like this will find a different audience down the road. Scarface, Blade Runner and others did terrible in their box office run, but gained attention years after. Repo Man is one
    of them. A must see.

  5. Greg 04/26/2020 at 3:23 am - Reply

    Such a great movie! Very punk at its time.

  6. Kelly 04/26/2020 at 5:40 am - Reply

    Thos is the perfect grungy, indie dyi post-modern movie that critics and audiences weren’t ready for.

  7. Linda 04/27/2020 at 1:02 am - Reply

    Love this. Great soundtrack too.

  8. Edwin Olsan 04/28/2020 at 1:48 am - Reply

    It’s okay. A bit overrated. I like how it spread punk rock to the masses with its soundtrack, Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, Circle Jerks, Iggy Pop, etc., but as a movie, it’s eh… kind of an 80s remake of KISS ME DEADLY.

  9. Jason Roth 04/28/2020 at 11:59 pm - Reply

    It has a permanent spot in my (somewhat nebulous) all-time top 10. Best TV network standards re-dub version of all time, too!

  10. Nathan Merrick 04/30/2020 at 1:33 am - Reply

    I just watched this film the other day for the first time. I always remember seeing it at the video store but never rented it and shame on me for that. This movie is fantastic, this has the be the best role in Emilio’s career and it’s another notch in the belt of the great career of the late Harry Dean Stanton. Loved everything about this movie from how over the top it is to the dialogue and a great punk soundtrack.

    Let’s go get sushi and not pay

    4 outta 5 stars

  11. Barry Germansky 05/01/2020 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    I always enjoyed this film, so eccentric and satirical. The image of the glow in the dark Malibu It’s just cool and ambiguous, always found this film to be a 80s version of Kiss Me Deadly.

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    One of the most damn fun experiences that you will have watching a movie. This film is such a blast that just breezes by as you watch it.

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