“You know how everybody’s into weirdness right now?”– Miller (Tracey Walter)

That could be the defining line of Alex Cox’s 1984 cult comedy “Repo Man,” showing as part of Bayside Bowl’s Patio Movie Series on Wednesday. Of course, there are a lot more candidates for the most memorable line in this eminently quotable flick — most of which I’d get fired for quoting in this fine family newspaper. If I had to pick one, even more representative utterance from the cast of borderline-insane characters therein, though, it’d have to go to Harry Dean Stanton’s grizzled repo man Bud, “See, an ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations. A repo man spends his life getting into tense situations.”

And hilarious, dangerous, ludicrously insane situations, which is what makes this anarchic fan favorite so enduringly popular, and a perfect choice for Bayside’s outdoor film series, where aging film freaks and rookies alike can experience what still remains one of the most delightfully twisted cinematic examinations of American consumerism. And aliens. And shrimp. (That’ll make sense once you watch it.)

The tale of a brashly disaffected Los Angeles punker named Otto (Emilio Estevez, perfect in his one memorable performance) who, after storming out of his soulless supermarket job and getting cheated on by his even more blase punk girlfriend, is unknowingly roped in to a car repossession job by Bud, the world-weariest, booze-bleariest repo man in the world. Reluctantly joining Bud’s equally quirky crew of repossessors, Otto finds himself learning the decidedly dodgy ropes of the repo biz, and running afoul of angry car owners, rival repo men, and the sinister government agents in pursuit of a Chevy Malibu with some decaying aliens in the trunk and a propensity for barbecuing anyone who pops the lid.

It’s that sort of movie.

However, the plot description, as wacky as it decidedly is, barely conveys the sheer giddy exhilaration that comes with watching “Repo Man.” Director Cox brings a cockeyed Brit’s fresh eyes to 1980s plastic America, where every food product comes in the same generic packaging (setting up the film’s funniest throwaway gag), bored suburban punks clumsily commit unending petty crimes, and Bud’s “repo code” sounds suspiciously similar to Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics, but with more swearing. Oh, and there are aliens. Cox’s sense of humor is both outrageous and deadpan, leading to a gradual aggregation of loopiness that suggests the placid surface of American life is coming apart in a tide of anarchic madness, an experience thrillingly enhanced by the film’s vintage punk rock score (Iggy Pop’s instrumental theme might be the greatest opening song in movie history.)

Like Bud says, “A repo man’s always intense.” To which I’ll add, and “Repo Man” will always be hilarious.

Co-presented by SPACE Gallery, the show starts at 8 p.m. at Bayside Bowl (baysidebowl.com/events/). No word on whether the menu features a “plate of shrimp,” though. 

Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.




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