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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Repo Men

By
John P. McCarthy
Source: Catholic News Service

The last time Forest Whitaker was paired with an actor hailing from Great Britain—namely James McAvoy in "The Last King of Scotland" —he won an Oscar for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

In the futuristic thriller "Repo Men" (Universal), he co-stars alongside Englishman Jude Law. No awards are in the offing, but, in addition to Whitaker, the two films share unspeakable brutality. Indeed, with all due respect to Amin's real-life victims, what transpires here, though fictional, is arguably more disturbing and exponentially more gruesome than the reign of terror depicted in that estimable 2006 movie.

Law and Whitaker portray Remy and Jake—schoolyard rivals, Army buddies, and now, in the near future, colleagues within a division of a corporation called The Union. Part soldiers, part hack surgeons, their job is to repossess artificial human organs when the recipient has fallen behind on the exorbitant interest payments. They stun their victims and then slice them open without benefit of painkillers or any hygienic precautions.

It's difficult to imagine a more revolting or wicked practice. And because it has no redeeming qualities to offset the butchery and degradation, "Repo Men" counts among the most distasteful movies to appear in recent years. The participation of serious actors such as Whitaker, Law and Liev Schreiber, who plays Jake and Remy's boss Frank, only adds insult to injury.

At the urging of his wife, Remy agrees to find a new line of work but experiences a life-altering health complication while carrying out his last assignment. Jake, who is none too happy about his partner's pending career reinvention, becomes his adversary. Alice Braga appears in the role of Beth, a lounge singer and drug addict with whom Remy then goes underground.

Comprised of used and barely functioning parts, "Repo Men" is a clunker no matter how you look at it—a technically undistinguished orgy of violence and patently immoral behavior. Adapted by Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner from Garcia's novel "The Repossession Mambo," the movie's science-fiction chassis, which features a major twist involving virtual technology, doesn't in the least excuse its trashiness.

At the outset, Remy poses a conundrum about how a cat placed in a box can be both dead and alive at the same time. The puzzle has some relevance to his fate, but a great deal more to that of audience members who will necessarily experience a deadening sensation.

The film contains unrelenting brutal, graphic violence; grisly images of surgical incisions and operations; instances of drug use; fleeting glimpses of bystanders engaged in sex acts; several implied or simulated nonmarital sexual encounters between the leading male and female characters; partial rear nudity; and pervasive rough, crude and profane language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John P. McCarthy  is a guest reviewer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office for Film & Broadcasting.


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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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