Alex Cox is all about turning things on their head; his debut, the sublimely silly Repo Man is a masterclass of this. The movie is about a young dissatisfied punk, Otto, who gets a job and discovers he quite likes it. He gets a girlfriend and quite likes that too. This is a film made by a punk about a punk who becomes a square. His friends who turn to sticking up stores get killed, much to Otto’s disdain. His favourite bands turn crappy. He learns a lot, starts dressing in white shirts and becomes a well-rounded person (more or less).
Sounds fairly dull doesn’t it? Well it might be if there wasn’t another movie slammed into it. The other movie is a conspiracy thriller to find the mysterious glowing contents of the trunk of a car before Tarantino can plagiarise it. As the car is on the repo list, it comes into Otto’s orbit.
Meanwhile, Alex’s world building proclivities are already in full sway, shelves populated with products that simply bear the name of what they are being the most obvious, and most successful illustration. Otto’s folks give money to TV evangelists and the feds crush those who get in their way. Right from the start of his career, Alex shapes characters who live in worlds he shapes. This is why his movies feel so rounded and complete. Straight To Hell features coffee addicted cowboys who populate their Spaghetti Western township. Death & The Compass‘ array of cops and crim’s live in the nooks and crannies of it’s Dick Tracy inspired primary coloured noir. Cox starts with a world, drops characters into it and worries about story later, when all the hard work is done.
Repo Man stands as the perfect example of Cox’s punk art… and it’s about a kid getting a job.