I was lucky enough to be in the first audience to test screen The Repossession Mambo last night in L.A. It stars Jude Law and Forest Whitaker and opens sometime in 2009. Here's my review (SPOILER ALERT THROUGHOUT): I never really realize I'm dying for a great sci-fi film until I begin watching one. Ten minutes into The Repossession Mambo I felt that hunger. Was I in store for the next great hard-edged sci-fi film? Right now I'm in the camp which believes Wall.E is the best sci-fi film of the decade but that's a fantastical, more innocent depiction of our future. Mambo is a colder, harsher reality ala Blade Runner or Children of Men. This is penned by Eric Garcia, who wrote the book Matchstick Men (funny when you think of the tremendous influence Ridley Scott's work has on this film) and Garrett Lerner, a tv writer. It's directed by newcomer Miguel Sapochnik. You can see his European influence with a few great scenes in the movie, especially the climax, as it pushes boundaries with violence and sexuality most American film makers don't usually push. The opening scene is a kick in the kidney so to speak and introduces us to Jude Law's character and his very unique job. Jude plays Remy, a cold expert in his profession with a wicked sense of humor. He's a level 5 organ repo man, the highest rank you can attain at a company called the Union which sells artificial organs (anything from ears to spines to a new pancreas) to those whose physical conditions won't allow them the time for the real organ waiting lists. These artificial organs, or "forks" as Union employees call them, cost in the area of 6 figures and if you're more than 3 months and some change late on the payments they send the repo men out to you. Now, this isn't all formal and legal where they serve you with papers and put you in a hospital to perform the surgery. They find you with organ scanners (like radar guns), stun gun you so you pass out, then cut you open to retrieve their product wherever they catch you, be it at your home or a taxi cab. It's brutal and graphic. I am a gore hound and I felt squeamish in my chair. I'm the kind of guy who can't watch surgery on those medical shows so it's a natural reaction. Forest Whitaker plays Jake, Remy's best friend and fellow level 5 repo man which makes for an interesting rivalry down the road. Liev Schrieber (who we don't see nearly enough of today) plays their boss and plays it with a great smarmy sense of humor. The film starts off hard and very promising. Jake and Remy go out on missions together. Early on they find a "nest", which is a grouping of those with overdue organ payments who usually hide out in abandoned buildings or in this scene a ship. We're introduced to Remy's family life which is on the rocks. We then see him repo a man he actually respects, a famous music producer. In the producer's home is when things go wrong and due to an accident with a heart defibrillator Remy finds himself in the hospital and having to make a terrible decision. He needs a new heart and the only place he can find one is the Union he works for. Hence the tables are turned and of course Remy learns what it's like to be on the other side of things. As corny as it sounds, he has more than one change of heart. And while this turning of the tides doesn't come off as overly schmaltzy in the film, it's a bit predictable and dull. Remy of course can not make the payments as his wife left him and he suddenly has trouble repo-ing organs. He even tries moving into sales (the desk job at the Union, like an insurance salesman) but it's just not for him and he can't push a product onto a client he knows someone may have to kill months down the line. My huge problem with the film as it stands now is the laborious second act. Even the last half of the first act. The first 20 minutes are fantastic, setting up this great concoction of sci-fi, black humor and action. I really dug the tone it was setting. How many sci-fi dark comedies do we have? As soon as we're introduced to Remy's girl problems (his current wife and flashbacks of his 1st wife, the true love of his life) the film starts falling flat and into melodrama land. I felt ancy through the act and felt like the film was going on for too long. The film loses some serious momentum when Remy reunites with Beth in a nest and they go on the lamb together. They re-warm up to each other since they were split apart years ago. Remy is not only dealing with being on the other side of things now with his new heart, but also falling in love again and wanting to protect his love from disappearing again. The problem is no one in the audience really cared about this relationship. We're given this great premise at the start, then asked to care about this life and love struggle which is played off as dull. It finally picks up again when a repo-man finds the two hiding out in an abandoned building. I started to ask myself why they just don't leave the city and whaddya know, in the next sequence they go to the airport, but as Beth warns, "No one gets through the airport". They initially pass through security because Remy stole scanner blockers from work, but due to Beth's bleeding leg, which she got from an accident with the repo man, they put them both in a detainment room. An intense action scene follows (reminded me of a bloodier Bourne scene when he's detained) in which our heroes escape. The action and violence here are the saving graces. It's quick and brutal and reminded me of the Bourne films. Remy doesn't just use his hands but anything he can grab such as scissors, hack saws, guns, or knives. The film almost has a grind house type feel to it with the action as half of the films tone is serious and dower and the other half displays arterial sprays and back alley surgeries. The ideas behind the film are nothing terribly original but seeing Jude Law perform some of these acts is worth the ticket alone. Yet there are a lot of script flaws with this film. The character of Remy is a bit uneven. Through flashbacks, he's this rambunctious, romantic young man entering the army and gets assigned to a tank with Jake in a middle eastern war. Then when he comes back and can't find his wife somehow he gets involved in the Union and turns into this cold blooded killer. Then all of a sudden he's depressed and tormented in the 2nd half. His emotional transitions are a bit too swift without enough motivation. And what of the first wife, Beth? She has about 8 artificial organs due to a car crash, which is mentioned once by her. The first time we meet her we learn she's a druggie and goes through the quickest withdrawal/recovery ever over night in a motel room which Remy takes her to. I was not a huge fan of the love story as the two leads did not have much chemistry at all. Forest and Jude made a better couple. I don't want to say much about the ending. But it is such a pivotal chain of sequences to the overall film that I must write about it. There are two endings here. The one which occurs first is the superior and breath taking one. The final ending uses the most contrived, frustrating plot device ever and I truly hope the director and producers come to their senses on this one and cut it out completely. But the 1st ending it so good my jaw was on the floor. Remy and Beth break into the corporate headquarters of the Union in an attempt to erase the hard drives and take everyone off the organ list. A bold, stupid idea indeed but they are desperate and Remy knows besides death or running for the rest of his life, this is his only option. Once they finally arrive at the pink door, which is the door which marks the only room Union employees can scan in organs, top Union executives are about to go in. Inexplicably they are all armed with knives but I honestly didn't care because a few seconds later comes the best action scene Jude's ever done and the best fight scene I've seen all year. It's a balls to the wall hallway fight scene that even pays homage to the famous Ichi the Killer hallway scene. This scene and the climactic one following it (behind the pink door, wow, sounds like a porn) made the film for me and the fact that the rest of the film isn't nearly as brilliant is very upsetting. I have to mention the scanning room finale because it is so memorable. I have not seen a scene mixed with so much sexuality and violence in an American film in a long time. It exuded the sexuality of the fridge scene in Nine Â½ weeks if Mickey and Kim were cutting each other open while feeding each other. I desperately wanted to sit down with the director after the screening and beg him to make the movie this almost was. I wanted to tell him, "Dude, you've made 2/3 of the new Blade Runner. Finish it!" It's maddening how good this film could be if the tone and quality of the first 10 minutes and last 30 (excluding the excruciating "true" ending) matched the rest. I was yearning for some better cinematography or staging in the great sequences as well, which would have put them into classic status instead of very good. Why couldn't this just be a hard sci-fi film? In truth, if I did see the film I wanted to see, it wouldn't have changed lives and it wouldn't have had the impact that Blade Runner has on us. I believe it would have garnered somewhere in between the success of Minority Report and Children of Men. But of what they shot, and what the screenplay offers, the best possible movie you can make out of all this is a very cool, violent sci-fi film. But it wouldn't hold a mirror up to society or have some giant meaning like classic sci-fi films have. The dialogue, plot or characters just aren't that strong. The action set pieces and violence are great and unique and it's those strengths the film needs to play up. If you use this call me Double Down. Thanks!