Director/Screenplay – Alex Cox, Producers – Eric Bassett, Alex Cox, Bingo Gubelmann, Daren Hicks, Benji Kohn, Austin Stark & Simon Tams, Photography – Steven Fierberg, Music – Kid Carpet & Dan Wool, Visual Effects Supervisor – Eric Leven, Visual Effects – Collateral Image, Train Sequence VFX – Polygon Entertainment, Freeway/Highway Sequences – Sparkle Media, Miniature Supervisor – Chris Morley, Makeup Design – Barney Burman, Production Design – Nick Plotquin. Production Company – Paper Street Films./Collateral Image VFX Project/Industrial Entertainment/BBC Films/Repo Chic LLC
Jaclyn Jonet (Pixxi de la Chasse), Miguel Sandoval (Arizona Gray), Del Zamora (Lorenzo), Jenna Zablocki (Eggi), Danny Arroyo (666), Zahn McClarnon (Savage), Alex Feldman (Marco), Robert Beltran (Aguas), Rosanna Arquette (Lola), Xander Berkeley (Aldrich de la Chasse), Chloe Webb (Sister Duncan), Jennifer Balgobin (Nevada), Angela Sarafyan (Giggli), Zander Schloss (Doctor), Tom Finnegan (Senator Frank ‘Fritz’ Fletcher), Eddie Velez (Justice Espinoza), Ben Guillory (Rogers), Linda Callahan (Rikki Espinoza), Barney Burman (Captain Zimmerman), Cy Carter (Lawyer), Karen Black (Aunt de la Chasse), Karen E. Wright (Colonel), Olivia Barash (Railroad Employee), Alex Cox (Professor), Frances Bay (Granma de la Chasse)
Because she has been getting in trouble with her wild partying, driving and sexual escapades, rich girl Pixxi de la Chasse is disinherited from the $77 million family fortune until she gets a job. Her car is repossessed by Arizona Gray of the Velvet Glove Admittance Corp. When she and her friends go to demand it back, they see a job wanted ad for a repossession agent and get Pixxi to apply. Accepted, Pixxi proves remarkably successful in the job. She becomes fascinated with a million dollar reward that has been posted for a missing train and determines to find it, even though everyone insists that the train is an urban legend. She finds the train with its mysteriously glowing caboose and blusters her way on board a delegation of VIPs. However, as they get underway, the staff reveal they are terrorists and threaten to blow the train up unless the USA announces it will make the game of golf illegal.
British director Alex Cox had a legitimate cult hit with Repo Man (1984), a genuinely off-the-wall hit with a punk soundtrack and amusingly cynical ethos to match. Subsequent to that, Cox had a well-regarded hit with Sid and Nancy (1986), a biopic of Sex Pistols lead singer Sid Vicious. Since then however, Alex Cox’s career has been genuinely head-scratching. Cox has remained consistently employed both as a director and occasional actor in other people’s films. He has made a further thirteen films as director but few of these have been granted theatrical releases and seem to only ever turn up on arts cable programming or via obscure independent dvd releases. These have included the likes of Straight to Hell (1987), Walker (1987), The Highway Patrolman (1991), the Jorge Luis Borges adaptation Death and the Compass (1992), the gambling film The Winner (1996), the surreal Three Businessmen (1998), the near-future Jacobean drama Revengers Tragedy (2002) and the sf film Bill the Galactic Hero (2014), as well as documentaries about Akira Kurosawa and the Emmanuelle films. Cox was also involved in the film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) but left over ‘creative differences’ with Hunter S. Thompson to be replaced by Terry Gilliam. The problem with most of Alex Cox’s films is that they receive less-than-stellar budgets, usually from obscure international sources, and seems bitsily thrown together – Straight to Hell, for instance, was shot in Spain when funding for a rock concert fell through and Cox and producers brought the musicians together to make a Western that appears to have been shot without a script.
With Repo Chick, you get the impression that Alex Cox has finally gotten fed up with struggling in the wilderness of indie filmmaking for the better part of three decades and threw his arms up in a big “what the hell” and decided to capitalise on his prior successes by churning out sequels. As well as this Repo Man sequel, Cox subsequently made Straight to Hell Returns (2010). Cox had also adapted an earlier Repo Man sequel script into into the graphic novel Waldo’s Hawaiian Journey (2008). One of the more fascinating controversies that occurred with Repo Chick was when the big-budget science-fiction film Repo Men (2010) was made around the same time where Universal fired cease and desist letters at Alex Cox, claiming he was capitalising on their title in making a sequel to his own film.
Repo Chick is a sequel to Repo Man only in the sense that it is a repeat of the essentials of the first film but with different characters. (Repo Chick does feature a number of actors who appeared in Repo Man, including Olivia Barash, Miguel Sandoval, Tom Finnegan, Del Zamora, Eddie Velez, Jennifer Balgobin, Zander Schloss and Biff Yeager, although none of them are cast in the same roles they played in the first film). There is the same plot set-up of someone down-and-out – Jaclyn Jonet’s disinherited heiress as opposed to Emilio Estevez’s unemployed punk – who discovers themselves after falling into the repo trade. In both films, the latter half of the story is taken over by the quest for a vehicle – a Chevy Malibu with aliens in the trunk in the original, a mysterious train here. (Although the disappointment of Repo Chick is that the train is of little significance to the film, other than becoming the venue for a hostage drama that takes over in the last third of the film. It has a caboose that glows green, although that seems to only be because the trunk of the car in the original also glowed and the train’s doing so is otherwise unexplained). Alex Cox has smartly updated the milieu and now uses repossession as a metaphor to make a number of digs at the sub-prime mortgage crisis.
But Repo Chick, oh dear. Contrasted to the brash, youthful wackiness of Repo Man where you could see Alex Cox was a talent in the process of forming, Repo Chick feels like a production that is trying to be a wacky cult film and only comes out as self-consciously forced in its efforts. For reasons unclear (probably lack of budget), Alex Cox has shot the entire film in front of a green screen using the RED Digital Cinema Camera process where almost all of the settings have been optically inserted in post-production. This results in a film where most of the sets and objects around people have been replaced by toys or vehicles that looks like cardboard mock-ups. The exteriors of the train in the latter half look like the filmmakers have simply cannibalised a toy train-set. The back-projected footage during the various vehicle journeys is frequently interrupted by negative stock or animation that looks as though it has been scrawled with felt pens.
I began to lose interest soon into Repo Chick due to a combination of the amateurish tediousness of the artificial sets and the shrill, annoying caricatures of Jaclyn Jonet’s three dim-witted sidekicks. Jaclyn Jonet plays the repo chick as the potentially interesting idea of an idle, self-absorbed heiress – sort of Paris Hilton with a ruthlessly calculating mercenary attitude – who has fallen from grace. This is something that could have worked but neither Jaclyn Jonet or Alex Cox do much to bring the character to life. Pixxi is shown to have a remarkable aptitude for the repo profession, although this seems to consist of no more than staring people down with a withering look or whispering something we are never privy to into their ear that subsequently sends them scurrying, where Alex Cox does the dramatic crime of describing from the outside rather than showing. The hostage scheme that takes over in the last third touches on moments of satiric social humour but mostly stumbles around itself with no clear direction. This is something you could also accuse Repo Man of but it at least found itself with an ending that was so sublimely strung-out that it was hilarious. Repo Chick alas never finds any such equivalent.