Otto Maddox (Emilio Estevez), an alienated young punk rocker living in mid-1980s Los Angeles, is fired from his menial supermarket stock clerk job. At a party, he finds his girlfriend having sex with his best friend. He soon finds that his pot-smoking, ex-hippie parents have donated his college savings account to a televangelist, supposedly to supply Bibles to El Salvador. Depressed and broke, Otto falls in with Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) a seasoned repossession agent, or "repo man", working for the disingenuously named "Helping Hand Acceptance Corporation", a small-time automobile repossession agency. While repelled by the concept at first, Otto's opinion is rapidly changed when he is paid cash for his first "job."
Otto soon learns that "the life of a repo man is always intense." He enjoys the drug use, real-life car chases, the thrill of hot-wiring cars and good pay. His old punk rock lifestyle seems boring by comparison, and he begins to develop a rapport with his fellow repo men as well. When he returns to a punk club to see a lounge act (played by real-life hardcore band Circle Jerks), he is amazed at how terrible they now seem.
Soon, Bud, Otto and competing repo men all over town are searching for a 1964 Chevrolet Malibu from New Mexico, ludicrously overvalued at $20,000 (about $41,000 in 2007 dollars); this vehicle, unknown to them, contains something mysterious and dangerously powerful in its trunk, also sought by a strange female FBI agent, Agent Rogersz (Susan Barnes) and her staff.
The film draws on the experiences of director Alex Cox, who worked briefly as a repossession agent in Los Angeles, but soon deviates into the surreal with aliens, the CIA, punk rocker thieves and other strange characters and situations, all amid a long string of running gags and almost-impossible coincidences.
Producer..........Peter McCarthy, Michael Nesmith
Emilio Estevez......Otto Maddox
Harry Dean Stanton..Bud
Fox Harris..........J. Frank Parnell
Eddie Velez ........Napoleon Rodriguez
Del Zamora .........Lagarto Rodriguez
Zander Schloss......Kevin the Nerd
Dick Rude...........Duke, Punk
The soundtrack features now-classic punk rock tracks by Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, Suicidal Tendencies, Iggy Pop and others. Producer Mike Nesmith has a small cameo role (a mock TV commercial taken from his video production Elephant Parts).
It was meant to capture an angry spirit and features a collection of punk bands of the time.
1. Repo Man - Iggy Pop – 5:11
2. TV Party - Black Flag – 3:50
3. Institutionalized - Suicidal Tendencies – 3:49
4. Coup d'État - The Circle Jerks – 1:59
5. El Clavo y la Cruz - The Plugz – 2:56
6. Pablo Picasso - Burning Sensations – 4:01
7. Let's Have a War - Fear – 2:29
8. When the Shit Hits the Fan - The Circle Jerks – 3:11
9. Hombre Secreto (Secret Agent Man) - The Plugz [Spanish] – 1:46
10. Bad Man performed - Juicy Bananas – 4:59
11. Reel Ten performed - The Plugz – 3:09