Like Waldo’s Hawaiian Holiday, Alex Cox’s unproduced first sequel to Repo Man, which was later turned into a comic book, Repo Chick is a typically flat caricature of the zeitgeist. But unlike its two predecessors, Repo Chick is mostly just a rehashed social comedy about how pop and consumer culture in American caters to the lowest common denominator, featuring some new, arbitrary Dadaist gags that only Cox knows why are in his movie (a terrorist cell in the film is determined to ban golf, for some reason). That’s Cox’s point: Everything old is new again, except now the slacker that will save us all is actually a rich-bitch dilettante. But saying that and enjoying a neutered form of Cox’s brand of anarch-obnoxiousness is another matter entirely. The one persistent sign of the times in Cox’s new film is its dime-store green-screen aesthetic, which makes Repo Chick look like the cartoon segments from Southland Tales, Richard Kelly’s infinitely more satisfying information-age parody. Repo Chick looks cheap and textureless as a result, but in a fitting way. Even Cox’s last film, Searchers 2.0, was not only more original, but more consistently screwy. Repo Chick just shows Cox’s age.
Save for its new protagonist, Repo Chick is a knowing rehash of Repo Man‘s plot. Pixxi De La Chasse (Jaclyn Jonet) is an entitled insta-reality-TV celebrity in training, a wealthy airhead that films her life and traipses around with an entourage of vacant, exhausted would-be punks that have even less of a clue as to what dressing up like Siouxsie means now than the characters in Repo Man did. Our heroine’s wacky conservative blueblood family, self-described “rapacious oligarchs,” threatens to disinherit her, which kicks Pixxi’s butt into gear and forces her to get a job working for Arizona Gray (the great Miguel Sandoval) as a repo chick. This indirectly leads Pixxi on a chase to find a mysterious train that almost nobody can see but her, even though it’s always whizzing through some part of L.A. on its not-so-abandoned tracks, and collect a million dollar reward. The song’s the same, but now the iconic symbol of change that everyone’s looking for is a choo-choo and not a Chevy Malibu.
Apart from some good, weird chuckles here and there (the discovery of a caboose full of explosive mannequins is especially funny, as is a shot of Sandoval pedaling furiously on a bicycle toward the camera), Repo Chick mostly feels tired and more scattershot than usual for Cox. Gags about a line of glow-in-the-dark thongs, post-soviet “Growler Bombs” and $77 million donated to Mother Theresa’s daughters for giving “false information to women about pregnancy” is amusing but unremarkable otherwise. This is the first Alex Cox film that made me agree with J. Hoberman’s comparison of Cox’s style of humor to Mel Brooks’s (upon its initial theatrical release, he specifically compared Walker to Blazing Saddles). Unfortunately, I’m thinking of Spaceballs-era Mel Brooks, not The Producers-era Mel Brooks.
Thanks to Microcinema International’s recent DVD releases of Straight to Hell Returns and Searchers 2.0, viewers can now go back and watch Cox’s superior works (I now recognize that, as lazy as Searchers 2.0 seemed a couple of years ago, at least it’s vitally strange). The fact that Cox is still out there thumbing his nose at the credit crisis and the airheads that currently have America under their thumb—Pixxi makes a number of Palin-esque tics during a speech at film’s end—is cause for celebration. But recognizing the difference between his essential work and also-ran titles like Repo Chick is pretty important. Or, in the words of a nitwit religious leader kidnapped by Del Zamora and his gang of gun-toting, anti-golf terrorists in Repo Chick: “Lord, for what we are about to receive, for what we have already received and the wisdom to know the difference.”