Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Repo Man (1984)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Repo Man (1984)

In director/scriptwriter Alex Cox's off-beat, debut cult film - a hybrid sci-fi black comedy about car repossession in Los Angeles and possible extra-terrestrials:

  • the film's classic opening sequence - J. Frank Parnell (Fox Harris), the driver of a dilapidated 1964 Chevy Malibu sedan, on a journey from Los Alamos, NM to California's Mojave Desert, was pulled over by a highway motorcycle patrol officer who asked: "What you got in the trunk?"; when the cop opened the trunk, despite warnings ("You don't wanna look in there"), he was immediately vaporized down to his semi-melted, smoking leather boots - it suggested an iconic 'Holy Grail' existence of a glowing white-light thing (a weapons-grade plutonium, radioactive neutron bomb or the remains of four dead aliens?); he continued his drive to Los Angeles - to the sound of an Iggy Pop tune
  • the film's central character Otto Maddox (Emilio Estevez) was introduced in Los Angeles, CA; he was a nihilist, disaffected grocery store stock clerk fired for insubordination at his job after he had become aggravated that his nerdy co-worker Kevn (Zander Schloss) was annoyingly singing a 7-Up jingle; soon after, Debbi (Jennifer Balgobin), Otto's punk-rock girlfriend, dumped Otto at a raucous party to hook up with another sexual partner Duke (Dick Rude)
Otto Maddox (Emilio Estevez) and Bud (Harry Dean Stanton)
  • disillusioned, frustrated and unemployed, Otto was offered $25 by master repo-man Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) as he wandered in LA to assist him in driving his sick and pregnant 'wife's' car and following him; Otto realized he had been swindled when the car's true Hispanic owner gave chase; they ended up at the offices of the Helping Hand Acceptance Corporation (a 'repossession' car company that seized cars from delinquent debtors); although Otto initially turned down work to become an apprentice 'repo-man' ("Screw that! I'm gonna be no repo man") with world-weary Bud, he changed his mind when he discovered his ex-hippie, marijuana-smoking parents had given his graduation money reward (of $1,000) to crooked tele-evangelist Reverend Larry (Bruce White) to send Bibles to El Salvador (Father: "It was a gift from all of us, jointly")
  • the scene of Bud's description of the "Repo Code" while snorting speed with Otto: "Never broke into a car. Never hot-wired a car, kid. I never broke into a trunk. I shall not cause harm to any vehicle nor the personal contents thereof. Nor through inaction let that vehicle or the personal contents thereof come to harm. That's what I call the Repo Code, kid. Don't forget it - etch it in your brain. Not many people got a code to live by anymore"; then he added: "See an ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations. Repo man spends his life getting into tense situations"
  • in a side plot, Otto's employer Helping Hand was competing with a used car sales lot owned by the rival Rodriguez Brothers (Lagarto (Del Zamora) and Napoleon "Napo" (Eddie Velez)); the two repo-agent swindlers sold Helping Hand's repossessed car at low prices (with high interest rates) in order to keep the turn-over rate of repo-cars high
  • the sequence of Otto's encounter with activist Leila (Olivia Barash) who worked at the United Fruitcake Outlet - she was part of a secret underground network of renegades who believed in the existence of extraterrestrials and life in outer space; after showing Otto a cryptic photograph she had in her possession, she claimed that there were four radioactive dead aliens being smuggled from the Los Alamos AF base in the trunk of a Chevy Malibu driven by one of the base's scientists; she and the network were conducting a search for the car and the aliens ("We gotta find them"), and were preparing a press conference to tell the world; a $20,000 bounty 'wanted notice' went out for the Malibu - the reward for locating the car
Search for the Malibu, and the Aliens in the Trunk of the Car
Leila (Olivia Barash) - Believer in ET's
$20,000 Bounty for Chevy Malibu
Picture of Dead Aliens in Tabloid
  • the monologue of spaced-out Miller delivered while burning clothes in a trash barrel with Otto: "A lot o' people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch o' unconnected incidents 'n things. They don't realize that there's this, like, lattice o' coincidence that lays on top o' everything. Give you an example; show you what I mean: suppose you're thinkin' about a plate o' shrimp. Suddenly somebody'll say, like, plate, or shrimp, or plate o' shrimp out of the blue, no explanation. No point in lookin' for one, either. It's all part of a cosmic unconciousness"; he went on about the Bermuda Triangle, UFOs, flying saucers, time machines and summarized: "People get so hung up on specifics. They miss out on seeing the whole thing"
  • the arrival of the sickened lunatic Los Alamos scientist Parnell in LA, where he was scheduled to meet other UFO compatriots; however, weakened (and vomiting) by the radioactivity when he stopped for gas, the car quickly changed hands a few times - it was first seized by the Rodriguez Brothers; then the trio of Otto's punk friends (liquor store thieves Otto's ex-girlfriend Debbi, Duke, and Archie (Miguel Sandoval)) stole the parked car; Parnell came upon his car and tricked them into opening the trunk (Duke burned his hand, but Archie was entirely incinerated), and then reclaimed the car; Duke and Debbi went off to commit more crimes: (Duke: "Let's go get sushi and not pay")
  • the outdoor scene at Helping Hands of Miller telling his beer-drinking buddies (who disagreed with him): "John Wayne was a fag...He was, too, you boys. I installed two-way mirrors in his pad in Brentwood, and he come to the door in a dress"
  • the frantic search for the car was conducted by many competing groups: Otto and Bud (and their Helping Hand colleagues Miller (Tracey Walter), Oly (Tom Finnegan), and Lite (Sy Richardson)), the Rodriguez Brothers, Leila who was kidnapped by government agents and then cooperated with eccentric alien-seeker Agent Rogersz (Susan Barnes) with a metal left hand, and the trio of crime-obsessed punks (reduced to Duke and Debbi)
  • the sequence of Otto's encounter with lobotomized "loonie" Parnell (whose mind was 'eroding') who offered him a ride in the Malibu; during the hitched ride, Otto was told about a scientist 'friend' who invented the neutron bomb and was given a lobotomy after realizing the consequences of nuclear war: ("Radiation, yes indeed! You hear the most outrageous lies about it. Half-baked goggle-boxed do-gooders telling everybody it’s bad for you. Pernicious nonsense! Everybody could stand a hundred chest X-rays a year. They ought to have 'em, too. When they canceled the project, it almost did me in. One day my mind was literally a-burst. The next day nothing. Swept away. But I showed them. I had a lobotomy in the end....Friend of mine had one. Designer of the neutron bomb. You ever hear of the neutron bomb? Destroys people - leaves buildings standing. Fits in a suitcase. It's so small, no one knows it's there until - BLAMMO. Eyes melt, skin explodes, everybody dead. So immoral, working on the thing can drive you mad. That's what happened to this friend of mine. So he had a lobotomy. Now he's well again")
  • soon after, Parnell passed out and died from radiation sickness; Otto dragged his body out of the car and drove back to the Helping Hand lot; after he parked it there and locked the gate, Bud restole and then hid the car
  • in the film's crazed and climactic conclusion - consisting of many twists and turns regarding the car's possession (when many of the characters reconverged, including government agents led by Agent Rogersz, the repo-men, and even the televangelist), Bud was located in a hospital room (after being shot in the head during one of the punk robberies), but escaped capture by the agents
  • all of the activity soon centered back at the Helping Hand lot where Bud had returned and was found by Otto; as Bud sat in the glowing bright green Malibu, Otto warned him: "Only an asshole gets killed over a car"; Bud was machine-gunned by a sniper-agent in a circling helicopter and died in Otto's arms
Bud in the Glowing Malibu in Helping Hand Lot
Bud Machine-Gunned
  • the Malibu (with sparks) emitted a blinding light force field and held back or incinerated even those wearing flame-retardant Hazmat suits who tried to get close; the tele-evangelist's Bible was struck by sparks and burst into flames
Bright Green Malibu
Miller at the Wheel
Glowing and Levitating Car
Otto's Wide-Eyed Amazement
The Speeding Car
Cosmic Ride
  • in the film's final moments, Helping Hand mechanic Miller (a believer in aliens - a time traveler?) slid behind the wheel to go for a "spin" and summoned Otto to join him as a passenger; Otto left the dying Bud and also ignored Leila who claimed they had a "relationship" (Otto: "F--k that!"); Otto and Miller drove off in the car that miraculously levitated, sped away across the LA skyline, and then blasted into outer space
  • the ending credits scrolled downwards instead of upwards

Cop: "What you got in the trunk?"

Disintegrated and Vaporized

Cop's Melted and Smoking Boots

Otto's Stoned-Out Ex-Hippie Parents

Crooked Tele-Evangelist Rev. Larry

Bud's Recitation of "Repo Code"

Government Agent Rogersz (Susan Barnes)

Miller's Monologue About Cosmic Unconsciousness

Miller: "John Wayne was a fag..."

Duke - One of Punks (with Debbi) Tricked into Opening Malibu Car Trunk, Burned His Hand

Archie Incinerated

Parnell's Story (to Otto) About His Lobotomized Scientist Friend

Parnell Dying From Radiation, Dragged From Car by Otto

Hazmat-Suited Gov't Agents Couldn't Get Near the Car

The Tele-Evangelist


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