Repo Men shows how capitalism is a part of us

  • March 19, 2010
{mosimage}A certain kind of reviewer, many of them working for the religious press, is going to object to Repo Men because of all the blood and swearing. As if morality consisted of a list of banned words and bodily fluids.

Catholics know morality has nothing to do with purity codes or legalisms. When legalists (sometimes Pharisees and sometimes Scribes) confronted Jesus over purity issues (ceremonial washing before meals), His response was derisive.

“There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile,” Jesus tells the crowd (Mark 7:14-15).

In Repo Men what comes out are artificial hearts, livers, knee joints etc. that haven’t been paid for in full. Just as banks today repossess cars and houses when the past due notices have piled to a certain height, the repo men of the future (Jude Law as Remy and Forest Whitaker as Jake) take back mechanical organs with interest payments owing.

With their motto, “A job’s a job,” Remy and Jake know they are just part of a much larger system — the economy. And Jake insists that the system is the only thing that keeps civilization from falling into chaos.

“There’s gotta be rules,” declares Jake. And the rules don’t mean anything if they’re not enforced, and that’s the repo man’s job. He’s the muscle behind market economics. And there is no alternative.

When Remy wakes up one morning with an artificial heart implanted in him that he can’t afford, he loses faith in the system. He also loses faith in himself as an agent of the system. He finds it increasingly difficult to knock people out and cut out their livers.

In the end he’s on the run from his unwanted bad debts and the bad debt collectors who would cut out his heart.

At one point Remy confronts his old boss about the unfairness of being hunted down for a debt he couldn’t refuse and can’t pay.

“Take me out of the system,” demands Remy.

“Give me your heart,” replies his boss.

Of course that’s the problem with the sinful side of an economic system that surrounds us, supports us and infects every aspect of our lives.

We might object to the ways capitalism can destroy the environment, corrupt our children, exploit entire nations and take over our lives — but we’re part of it and it’s part of us.

The delight in watching this movie is doubled for those who remember Repo Man, which starred Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez 25 years ago

Stanton’s Bud was the very soul of capitalism as he instructed young Otto (Estevez) in the code and conduct of his trade.

“What are you, a commie?” Bud asks Otto.

“No, I ain’t no commie,” answers Otto.

“Well, you better not be. I don’t want no commies in my car. No Christians either.”

Christians watching Repo Man 25 years ago knew why they couldn’t ride with Bud. Bud didn’t know anything about mercy, or the economics of plenty that Jesus advocates for the kingdom of God.

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