This film came out in 2010, and I thought it looked like a very interesting idea for a story, but I didn’t get a chance to see it in theaters. That turned out to be no great loss, because it wasn’t all that good. But it did have one line that I really, really liked.
The premise: in the future, medical science has advanced to the point where artificial body parts are reliably mass-produced. So there’s almost no need for anyone to die, ever, because they could just keep replacing everything as it wears out or gets sick. But capitalism doesn’t work that way, and in this story no one can truly benefit from the wondrous technology because the company that sells the organs won’t make a profit that way. The procedures and equipment are all incredibly expensive, but who can refuse to sign the payment contracts to get a new liver, knowing it means death if they don’t? “You owe it to your family. You owe it to yourself,” repeats a smarmy salesmen (played by Liev Schreiber).
He also states, “we can’t make money if people pay.” That’s where Remy (Jude Law) and Jake (Forest Whitaker) come in. They are the Repo Men, and their job is to repossess artificial organs on which the purposefully too-high payments have fallen behind, by cutting them out of the receivers’ bodies. This typically means the person dies, but Remy and Jake aren’t bothered. It’s “just a job.” And they always read a statement asking if the patient would like an ambulance to be on hand before they cut them open, but it’s clearly a legality as Remy is shown reading it after knocking his victim unconscious with a taser.
Then there’s the twist that you see coming a mile away: Remy suffers an accident and has to get an artificial heart himself. Now he’s on the other side of the system. Suddenly aware of his own mortality, he can’t bring himself to do any more repo jobs, and therefore can’t make the money to pay off his own heart. After that it’s pretty much just an action movie, running around trying to escape and fighting various people off, and the entire third act kind of falls apart story-wise, and the ending is really stupid. It’s like somebody had this great idea, and then it just became an excuse for stereotypical fight scenes.
Part of the message here seems to be a critique of the American health care system. It says that doctors don’t care about their patients, that profits are more important than people, that hospitals are evil corporations and everybody could really be perfectly healthy if only the people at the top weren’t so greedy and corrupt. Of course it’s all hypothetical, and in the real world things are not so extreme or so black and white, but sometimes fiction provides a safe place to talk about controversial subjects. Despite it’s descent into illogical sequences of gun fights, knife fights, and fire extinguisher axe fights, Repo Men could be a good way to start a conversation about the flaws in our health care (and health insurance) systems, and what we can do to prevent this kind of future scenario.
My favorite line was something Remy said when he finally decided to quit his line of work, no longer able to believe in the mantra “it’s just a job” that he himself had once repeated. “But it’s not just a job, is it? It’s who you are. If you want to change who you are, start by changing what you do.” That is excellent advice! I don’t know of any Bible verses that specifically support it. But C.S. Lewis dedicated a section to it in his book Mere Christianity (Book 4, chapter 7). Here is an excerpt:
There are two kinds of pretending. There is a bad kind, where the pretense is there instead of the real thing; as when a man pretends he is going to help you instead of really helping you. But there is also a good kind, where the pretense leads up to the real thing. When you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are. And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were. Very often the only way to get a quality in real life is to start behaving as if you had it already.
So let’s practice living like Christ. Let’s change our character by consciously deciding to act how God wants us to. Then when the Reap-o Man comes for our souls, we’ll be ready.