Everyone’s talking about the forthcoming sequel to “Wall Street,” but the new movie that may best capture public sentiment about the current financial crisis is a work of science fiction.
Early in the trailer for “Repo Men,” we see Liev Schreiber playing a smooth-talking salesman (not unlike the one he portrayed in “Glengarry Glen Ross” on Broadway a few years ago). “Let me just assure you,” Schreiber tells a prospective customer, “that our credit department will find a plan that fits your lifestyle.”
Cue the voice-over from a Cockney-accented Jude Law: “He’ll sign it. Everybody signs it. But what they won’t tell you is, if you can’t pay the bills, some union man will break into your house and reclaim our property.” The property in this case isn’t a house or a car. It’s artificial organs like hearts and livers, which, in the future world the film depicts, are advertised on television for prices in the high six figures. Law and Forest Whitaker play the titular repossession agents, who gun down delinquent debtors and harvest the collateral from their corpses.
Some consumer advocates, at least, are amused.
“The movie takes two of the worst miseries of the current credit system — overwhelming medical debt and rampant foreclosure — and twists them into one debt nightmare,” Angela K. Littwin, an assistant law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote Monday on the blog CreditSlips.
One reader of the blog concurred, writing in a comment on Littwin’s posting: “It’s not much different now. The only difference is, they use harassing phone calls and collection agencies now instead of repo men.”
Littwin wrote that the movie could be a sign that “there’s enough anger at lenders to, say, get us a Consumer Financial Protection Agency with teeth. … [I]t does suggest that this is our big chance.”
Perhaps. The trailer includes a scene where a hapless debtor pleads, “I can pay.” “Sorry, that’s not my department,” Law replies before shooting him (a line reminiscent of Schwarzenegger’s old action movies). Not a very flattering depiction of the credit industry.
Then again, some people in the business may appreciate this line spoken by Whitaker’s character about the importance of enforcing contracts: “What do you think keeps a world together? It’s rules. It’s people abiding by the terms of the deals that they signed themselves.”
“Repo Men” opens in theaters Friday.