This Week in Glow-in-the-Dark Chevys

A million punks can't be wrong.

It's easy to label a film as "of its generation," for any number of reasons—often thematic (the Cold War anxiety that drives WarGames, or the fetishistic Reagan-era portrait of greed in Wall Street), sometimes slightly more shallow and stylistic (yay, Molly in Pretty In Pink, for making your own clothes .
. . but that fugly prom dress was scarily mid-'80s). It's rare, however, that all manner of elements—style and substance alike—come together to craft something so original, so instant-cult-classic as Alex Cox's 1984 sci-fi/punk head-trip Repo Man, rereleased on DVD Tuesday.

A year before being etched into pop culture portraying the archetypal suburban-teen jock, Emilio Estevez took on his first lead role as Otto, who, in rapid succession as the film opens, quits his job, gets dumped and finds out his Jesus-freak parents have donated his college money to a televangelist. Wandering the streets—Cox's camera deftly captures a seedy, nervy, uncomfortably exciting side to South-Central and East LA that filmmakers in the post-Tarantino era would later latch onto—Otto meets repo man Bud (the incomparable Harry Dean Stanton, who soon after appeared in Pretty In Pink and totally made up for that dress). As the elder statesmen takes aimless Otto under his wing and teaches him how to repossess cars, a Chevy Malibu with some top-secret cargo in the trunk enters the picture. And then the really weird shit starts happening. . . .

More than 20 years later, Repo Man still dazzles with its raucous energy, attitude and killer soundtrack (Iggy, Fear, Black Flag, plus an appearance by the Circle Jerks); it's a classic of the era and by far Cox's best film. (Shut it, Sid & Nancy fans, you know it's true.) Universal's new collector's edition isn't quite as lush as the out-of-print Anchor Bay edition from 2000, but it has some of the same features (a commentary with Cox, executive producer Michael Nesmith, and others), plus new ones (deleted scenes, a conversation with Stanton, and more).

Also recommended this week: The Aristocrats; Educating Rita; Thumbsucker; The Virgin Spring (Criterion).

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