'Repo Men' takes on health care

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REVIEW

PLOT: In the near future, an artificial organ company decides not to tolerate late payments.

BOTTOM LINE: Surprisingly engrossing, with an emphasis on the gross.

CAST: Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Alice Braga, Liev Schreiber

LENGTH: 1:51

Up in the ranks of big-time filmmaking, the war in Iraq is the big issue: See the Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker" and last week's Matt Damon vehicle, "Green Zone." Down in the trenches of populist filmmaking - horror, action, pulp - there is evident anger over another hot topic: health care.

"Repo Men," like last year's "Saw VI," has great fun demonizing the health-care industry and contrasting its cold pragmatism with warm gore. The time is the near future, and a company called The Union is selling artificial organs to folks who can't afford them (a nod, for good measure, to the subprime mortgage meltdown). Deadbeats beware: Union contractor Remy (Jude Law) will take that organ back on the spot, and without anesthesia.

The premise isn't new; an oddball horror-musical called "Repo! The Genetic Opera" came out two years ago. Still, "Repo Men" is better and smarter than you might expect.

That's partly because of the top-notch cast. Against all odds, Law makes Remy an empathetic anti-hero, while Forest Whitaker nearly steals the movie as his faithful repo partner. Liev Schreiber sneers it up beautifully as a heartless Union bigwig; Alice Braga breathes a little life into a token role.

First-time director Miguel Sapochnik directs with borrowed panache - you'll catch glimmers of "Blade Runner," "Total Recall," David Cronenberg's "Crash" and even Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" in this slightly overlong film. All in all, it's a darkly bloody good time, and a vicarious way to take a hacksaw to your HMO.

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