I’m a bit behind on my movie watching, so I caught “Repo Men”, a 2010 film starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker, directed by Miguel Sapochnik on DVR the other night.

Set in the near future (so near, they still drive cars currently in use), the main storyline concerns the use of highly advanced artificial organs developed by a company called “The Union” as high-priced replacement parts for an increasingly ill society, and the reclaiming agents (repo men) employed by the company to reclaim the prosthetics when customers fail to pay the exorbitant bills on time. The process of “reclaiming” is grisly and brutal, more often than not leading to the deaths of the unfortunate customers as their organ is harvested. More on this in a moment.

That the movie came out in 2010 is interesting in its parallels to the political climate at the time – especially concerning health care – and can lead one to conclude that the parallels are drawn intentionally. Given that the push toward passage of the Obamacare bill had reached the fever point with Congress and the entire nation deeply divided, it seems rather too coincidental for the film to be intended purely as fiction, but rather, an allegory for the argument taking place.

The messages intended to be derived from the film appear to be – sick people are being taken advantage of by evil, greedy, bloodthirsty corporations; the “help” people are given by the corporation is of a purely profit-driven nature; the corporations care nothing for the welfare and lives of their customers and will kill them in a second – in the most gruesome, heartless way possible – for profit. Anyone watching this film would necessarily conclude that the only possible solution to avoid such a world of depraved barbarity would and should be a system in which everyone is cared for equally, and that none need fear a major, expensive health issue – the government will provide.

The movie was released on March 19, 2010.

Obamacare was signed into law 4 days later on March 23, 2010.

While healthcare remains a critically important issue for every American family, the idea that an extreme portrayal of the dark side of health management would win over converts is laughable. The movie excels at cartoonish gore – bodies (presumably representing those denied coverage by their HMO) strewn helter-skelter, the room awash with viscera and blood. The movie does not excel at converting the undecided or the opposed. The idea that a corporation would be permitted to slaughter untold multitudes because contracts have been signed is laughable – unless you realize that such slaughter would require government sanction. Then the “death panels” we were told were non-existent jump into sharp relief. A scene in which the protagonists attempt to escape via the airport illustrates how goon-like the TSA could become. That the name of the artificial organ company is “The Union” is the proverbial cherry on top. Here is the composite monster, representing all those evil “Big Pharma” corporations, uniting them under a bloody umbrella.

Since the movie’s premise relies on the conceit that the high-tech organs belong to the corporation until they are paid off, at some point, one could hardly be accused of cynicism when wondering about organs from people instead of expensive machinery. Surely people die in accidents in the future as well, could we not harvest their organs for distribution to the masses instead?

Organ harvesting is especially vicious in China, where political prisoners are having their organs removed immediately after being executed. Sadly, this seems to get positive reactions from some quarters, where the utilitarian belief that someone who is not using or needing “spare parts” should not greedily get to keep them. Instead the view is that the “resources” are for all to benefit.

As the movie ends with a dream-like sequence on a tropical beach, it seems that all will be well, and everything will work out in the end. But appearances can be deceiving.

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