(director/writer: Alex Cox; cinematographer: Robby Müller; editor: Dennis Dolan; music: Tito Larriva/Steven Hufsteter; cast: Emilio Estevez (Otto), Harry Dean Stanton (Bud), Tracey Walter (Miller), Olivia Barash (Leila), Sy Richardson (Lite), Susan Barnes (Agent Rogersz), Fox Harris (J. Frank Parnell), Tom Finnegan (Oly), Del Zamora (Lagarto Rodriguez), Eddie Velez (Napo Rodriguez), Zander Schloss (Kevin), Jennifer Balgobin (Debbi), Dick Rude (Duke) ; Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Peter McCarthy/Jonathan Wacks; MCA/Universal Home Video; 1984)

“Totally bizarre.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A cult classic. Alex Cox is the writer-director of this weird punker sci-fi film encompassing characters from the world of punkers, car thieves, repo men, lobotomized nuclear scientists, CIA stiffs, UFO freaks, religious cultists, and convenience store stickup gangs, all looking for a 1964 Chevy Malibu carrying a deadly load in the trunk and having a $20,000 bounty placed on it by the feds.

Otto (Emilio Estevez) is a Los Angeles punk who loses his stock clerk job in a supermarket and while walking by a bad neighborhood is approached by Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) in a car and offered $25 to drive his old lady’s parked car. Barely driving the car away before attacked, Otto has been hustled into getting work as a repo man for the Helping Hand Acceptance Corp. At first repulsed, Otto is attracted to the out-to-lunch lifestyle of the repo men and the job being “always intense” and their ‘I couldn’t-give-a-fuck attitude.’

After car chase adventures with the rival Rodriguez Brothers (Eddie Velez & Del Zamora), the always snarling earring-wearing self-described suburban punk, Otto, somehow fits in with the odd repo men crew. One spaced-out member without a driver’s license, Miller (Tracey Walter ), who works in the lot, says ”The more you drive, the less intelligent you get.” Along the way Otto stumbles into a romance with Leila (Olivia Barash), who asserts that there are the bodies of four aliens in the trunk of the missing 1964 Chevy Malibu. The aforementioned car is driven by the inventor of the neutron bomb, J. Frank Parnell (Fox Harris), who stole the car from the Los Alamos atomic facility and at one point brags about his lobotomy.

The film freely borrows from Robert Aldrich’s bleak thriller Kiss Me Deadly; English director Cox keeps this one totally bizarre and filled with an offbeat black-comedy. There are countless mishaps and a surreal ending that one would find in a sci-fi film such as ”Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Robby Muller’s beautiful camerawork and the background menu of punk rock songs adds to the film’s dark fantasy pleasures.

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